In the Gospels joy is found: at Jesus’ birth, when the 72 disciples returned to Jesus, amazed at the power of his kingdom, at Jesus’ triumphal entry when the crowds were filled with joy and again in Jesus’ resurrection appearances. Jesus told his disciples the reason he was explaining things to them was … “so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11) Jesus’ desire is not simply that we have joy in a general sense, but that we have the joy of the Lord. His joy makes our joy complete. His joy is the missing piece of the puzzle that many people lack. His joy is needed to experience the fulness of joy.
Typically, we find joy associated with the life and mission of the early church, and we read “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 13:52) In one of his letters to the early church Peter wrote, “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,” (1 Peter 1:8) Like us, this new generation of Christians had not seen Jesus, they had only heard the good news about him. Even so they believed, and as a result they were filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.
What difference does this make to us? The proclamation of the Angel, Joy to the world, the promise of Jesus to make our joy complete and the words of Peter that those who believe in Jesus, are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, remind us that in Jesus there is joy. This is a joy that will be with us in this life and in eternity, that will cause our hearts to sing, and will give us strength to persevere.
Do you remember the story of Jesus walking past the fig tree, looking for fruit but finding it had none? When he looks at us will he find the ripe fruit of joy in our lives? Can we, the people of the church, be like a fruitful orchard this advent? Can we be so fruitful that the people of our community can find the fruit of the spirit among us?
- Take a moment to reflect on a time you were truly joyful.
- If the church was an orchard bearing the fruit of the spirit, would people find an abundance of joy among us?
- What is the spiritual source of our joy?
- Very soon you will find fruit stalls opening on the roadside selling cherries and strawberries for Christmas. Whenever you see one of these stalls take a moment to consider the spiritual fruitfulness of your life.
- How might our church, like a fruit stall offer these spiritual fruits, free of charge to the people of our community.
Rev John Malcolm