Weekly Devotional – Week of Monday, November 30, 2020
Opening Prayer (from the Book of Common Prayer, Occasional Prayers)
Gracious God and most merciful Father, you have granted us the rich and precious jewel of your holy Word: Assist us with your Spirit, that the same Word may be written in our hearts to our everlasting comfort, to reform us, to renew us according to your own image, to build us up and edify us into the perfect dwelling place of your Christ, sanctifying and increasing in us all heavenly virtues; grant this, O heavenly Father, for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.
Bible Reading – Matthew 28:1-10
Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” 8 So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”
(English Standard Version)
Devotional –The Coming of Joy
It may seem strange to begin the Advent season with a reading from the end of Jesus’ life. Advent literally means “to come.” During the Season of Advent, we concentrate on the scriptures that speak of the 1st “coming” of Christ or the confident hope we have his 2nd “coming.” Yet this morning we read of the very first encounter that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary had with the risen Jesus. The reason I chose this passage to kick off our devotionals for the Advent season is because of the profound reaction that the Resurrection of Jesus Christ had on those first disciples. We are told that upon encountering the empty tomb and the revelation of the resurrection, those women were filled with great joy. Joy is the fundamental gift for all people who experience the “coming” of the risen Christ in their lives.
Joy is often confused in our culture today. We use the word to describe feelings of pleasure and happiness. But the joy that is referenced in Matthew 8 is something distinctly different from mere pleasure or happiness. Pleasure and happiness are ever fleeting and they are achieved through human effort. But those feelings come and go. Nothing we can manufacture on our own will ever satisfy our desires for ultimate and everlasting joy. I know when I have the opportunity (rare as they are) to purchase a car, I am filled with happiness at the pleasure it brings. I love to play with all the new technology, take in the fresh new smells, and enjoy a smooth new ride. Inevitably though in a couple of months, that car no longer holds the same pleasure of newness for me and I am off looking for something else to fill up my need for happiness. Joy is something more substantial. Joy is something that satisfies our deepest needs and longings. When we experience true joy all other pleasures in life fail to ever live up to its substance in our lives.
We all long for joy. Joy is hardwired into our systems. It is the reason we are all so desperate to be happy and miserable when it always escapes our grasps. The reason we all long for joy is because we were created for joy. We were created by the Author of the Universe to be in a loving relationship with Him forever. Because of our sin and rebellion, there is a wall of separation between us. The deep desire we have for pleasure and happiness is pointing us back towards that primary of all relationships. The reason that every humanly manufactured joy eventually fails and leaves us empty is because it is a cheap counterfeit to the real joy of a relationship with God. Our deep desire for joy is the beacon of light that keeps leading us back to Him.
Jesus came into the world to bring us back to the place of full joy with our God. Jesus said it this way in John 15:11, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” In Jesus our hearts find the satisfaction that they are craving. He died the death we deserve for our sin so that the veil of separation between us and God might be removed forever. When the risen Christ comes into our lives and leads us back into a right relationship with God, the fundamental gift we receive is joy. This is what we need most of all this Advent season. We need an outpouring of the joy that Christ brings when He comes into our lives. C.S. Lewis wrote this in The Weight of Glory, “The whole man is to drink from the fountain of joy.” This Advent Season let us all drink deeply from the fountain of joy that we have in the coming of our Savior.
Closing Prayer (from the Book of Common Prayer, Collects)
Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of this world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.