Advent: Practicing Joy


joy-400Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.
– Philippians 4:8

Welcome back to the season of Advent, the four weeks to prepare our hearts for the celebration of Christmas. During these weeks our lives are often consumed with shopping for gifts. Nothing wrong with that, but I’d like to focus my blog this Advent on practices that help us to experience some of the greatest spiritual gifts. This week I want to encourage you to practice joy.

Earlier this summer I gave my car to our youngest son and bought myself a new red Mazda. That first week I was amazed by how many other red Mazdas were on the road. I fancied myself quite the trendsetter! Of course, those red Mazdas had been on the road, but now I was noticing them. My own purchase had opened my eyes to what had been right in front of me all along.

I think that same principle can be applied to experiencing more joy. So often we evaluate our day by focusing on one or two negative experiences. An uncomfortable interaction with someone, being late for an appointment, an unexpected bill. These experiences make for a “bad day”. But consider just a few of the things we probably took for granted on that same day:

  • We opened our eyes to a new day
  • That first sip of coffee in the morning
  • The smile of a friend or colleague
  • We turned on the faucet and water flowed
  • We were free to read whatever we wished

These are ordinary things to be sure, but that needn’t make them any less joyful. Imagine losing any one of them and you’ll quickly realize how precious each one is. And that is the essence of practicing joy. We choose to bring our attention to the many small yet profound gifts we encounter each day. We acknowledge each one, letting the joy of the moment fill us, and express our gratitude to God. The accumulated weight of these moments is an overwhelming joy. And as if that weren’t enough, the more we practice the more joy we’ll see and experience in each day.

So this week I want to challenge you to intentionally practice joy. Practice bringing your attention to the small yet profound gifts we so often take for granted. As St. Paul urged, let these things fill your mind and mediate on them. Let them fill you with joy and you’ll soon discover the truth of Jesus’ words, “For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away”.

Want to learn about the connection between joy and gratitude? Check out this brief video from Brene Brown. Click here.

Jeff Marian serves as lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN

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