This week we light our 3rd candle in the advent wreath. We've lit two purple candles, and this week we get to light the pink one representing joy. Here's a devotion to help guide your conversation centered on the joy we have when we remember what God did for us at Christmas time.
Invite everyone to share the difference between joy and happiness.
You might wrap us the conversation by saying something like this:
One of the very obvious differences between happiness and joy is that happiness tends to be achieved externally, while joy is something achieved internally. For example, we can feel happy when we receive something like a gift or achieve something like awards or honors. These things are external or belong to the surface of our lives. It is not something deeper but, rather, superficial.
Joy, on the other hand, is something deeper. It is something we feel internally in our lives as human beings. For example, when we feel great joy when we worship God the Father and when we feel great joy when we remember our Lord Jesus Christ dying on the cross to save us from sins.
Joy is something to do with our inner nature rather than the outer nature of our human character. John 15:11 says we are reminded by this, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
Read Luke 2:8-17
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them."
Ask: Can you imagine being a shepherd in the field? What would you have thought?
What if the angels said the baby was lying in Herod's house, in a golden cradle and surrounded by government rulers? Would you have been eager to see him? Why or why not?
Say: Isn't it great that Jesus was born in a humble stable, and that he lay in a manger?
Share this story about the lambs who were set aside to be temple sacrifices:
When the mother ewe was preparing to give birth, she was taken to a special birth place, or to the only cave designated, to give birth to the sacrificial Iambs. This cave was kept sterile and clean for the arrival of newborn sacrificial Iambs. The newborn lamb was immediately wrapped in clean swaddling cloths to protect them and keep them from blemish and danger. Swaddling clothes described in the Bible consisted of a cloth tied together by bandage-like strips. When the declaration was made to these Levitical Shepherds that watched their sheep in a special field full of sacrificial lambs, they apparently knew exactly where to go to discover that Baby. There were apparently many places that held mangers, but they comprehended immediately where to go to find the babe… to their cave, where their sacrificial lambs were born and wrapped in “swaddling clothes.” Shepherds and Swaddling Clothes
Ask: What do you think the shepherds said to each other when they walked back to their fields? How do you think this night impacted their lives?
I love that God does all things well. Because Jesus came the way He came, even the poorest, loneliest, most broken people could understand that He came for them (as well as for the rich people and those who ruled over others).
The angels sang, "Joy to the world, the Savior's come! Let earth receive her King!"
Remember John 3:16? "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."
Jesus came to save us from our sins, to bring hope and peace and love to our world and to take us to heaven when we die. That makes me feel joy FULL--what about you?
Let's pray and thank God for His gift of salvation and eternal life.
Pray: Lord, we thank You that when You sent Jesus, You sent us Your very best. Because we couldn't save ourselves, You came to earth and did for us what we couldn't do. You lived a sinless life, then died for our sins, and raised from the grave to live forever. When we accept Your extravagant gift of salvation, we get to have great joy. No matter what's going on around us, we can experience the joy of being loved by you from within us. We love You, LORD. Thank You for loving us. Thank You for sharing the news of Jesus' birth with the shepherds reminding us that You came to save all of us--those who are powerful and rich; those who are powerless and poor and all the rest of us in between. This is good news of great joy. We love You. Amen.