so there’s a lot about the nuts and bolts of advent that different denominations and traditions do differently, but pretty much everyone who lights an advent wreath (as far as i know) agrees about this: week 3, you light the pink candle and it’s joy week. i’m going to be honest, joy in waiting is not my strong suit, and that’s what we celebrate this week. no really. we celebrate waiting for Jesus to come. with joy.
the israelites waited four hundred years while God was silent for the longest time in the history of the world. classes ended a whopping four days ago and pretty much everyone i know writing papers and taking finals is struggling with the feeling that things might actually never get better. i cannot imagine what 400 years of that would be like.
so where is joy in waiting? joy is in knowing that something better is coming, even if that’s hard to imagine right now. and we can cultivate that kind of joy and that kind of perspective through thankfulness. being thankful makes me realize that what i have now is enough and reminds me of God’s provision in the past. i find that in a culture that is blessed with so much, most of the people i know (myself included) seem to find so little to be thankful for, and i believe that that is what is driving our need for more and more, always more.
thankfulness also cultivates joy in me, especially when i’m having trouble finding things to be joyful about. this summer at camp during a particularly hard-to-find-joy week, i developed a habit of coming up with 100 things i was thankful for before i spoke to anyone in the morning. 100 might seem like a lot, but everyday i found more than enough things to be thankful for, from friends to coffee to the fact that it was wednesday and not tuesday anymore. 100 things reminded me that i was blessed beyond what i could count even when i felt like i was empty, knocked down, and broken. it changed my attitude, it changed my worship, and it changed my waiting.
these past few weeks have had some hard-to-find-joy times in them, and i have been hard pressed to wait with joy for the promises God has for me. i’ve woken up more than one morning with anxiety and dread feeling like literal weights on my shoulders, and i’ve been fighting it the only way i know how- with thanksgiving and with scripture. i’ve started listing things that i’m thankful for while walking to class, before starting exams, while having hard conversations, and all throughout the day. i’ve started my day with 100 things almost every day for the past two weeks. and i have remembered that in my waiting on the Lord, i will renew my strength (is. 40:31), that God’s peace will come with thanksgiving (phil. 4:6), and that Christ has already overcome this too (john 16:33). i have written thanks on my hands, on my tests, and i am working on writing it on my heart. it hasn’t made everything better. it’s still finals week, things are still hard. but i am joyful, and i have so, SO much to be thankful for.
i pray that this week we would all find joy in emmanuel who is with us right now and celebrating that God hasn’t been silent for 400 years, but that we would also find joy in waiting for the perfection that is coming even while we live in brokenness today. i pray that we would be thankful. God is good, even while we wait.