“Where are You Joy, Why Can’t I find you? – Advent 2023

“Where are You Joy, Why Can’t I find you? – Advent 2023 December 17, 2023

“Where are you, joy?” Image by Daniela Dimitrova from Pixabay

Cindy-Lou Who famously sings about missing out on the spirit of Christmas. In the 2000 film How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Cindy is concerned that everyone is missing the point of Christmas. People are busy with so many other things that the spirit of Christmas is gone. As we approach the third week of Advent, we examine the concept of joy. As I look back over the past year, I wonder for myself and the world, where are you, joy?


If you have ever watched a child being tossed in the air (or been the one tossing said child), then you have witnessed a child’s spontaneous laughter and joy. The child fully trusts that the person who throws will catch them. They love the thrill of the butterflies in their stomach as they go up and down. “Again, again,” they cry as they are safely and softly caught. Some people never get tired of that feeling of weightlessness, and as adults, they find joy in zip lines, bungee jumps, roller coasters, and even jumping out of perfectly good airplanes. The thrill of leaping, having faith that a safe landing awaits, is one some people never leave behind.

In the book of Luke, Jesus welcomes children. He gathers them to Himself and then explains the importance of being like a child. We most often use the word childish as a negative description. You are like a child because you need to grow up. But Jesus reveals a truth that we must wrestle with. If you can’t receive the kingdom of God like a child, you will miss it. Our world continues to grow and celebrate increasing complexity. Humanity has advanced drastically in science and medicine over the last century. But faith and trust remain crucial to being a follower of Jesus. And not just faith and trust proven out beyond the shadow of a doubt, but a child’s innocent, confident faith.

Where are you, joy?

As I look around our world, I see darkness. Complexity has not led to happiness, joy, or peace. We can do more, own more things, and experience more than any other generation. But we also are facing an epidemic of loneliness and depression. The news and events of the day lack joy. We are hurtling towards another Christmas day, but even a holiday wrapped up in things like Christmas cheer and seeing friends and family seems a temporary reprieve at best.


It must have been dark that night. Shepherds watching over their sheep, probably by starlight, were likely resting after a day’s hard work. And then, exploding light and music. A new song and something the shepherds had never seen or experienced. And the shepherds were naturally afraid. Fear steals, kills, and ruins joy. And so the angel’s first message before the savior’s announcement was, “Do not fear.” God knows that humans have, do, and will continue to struggle with fear. So, He addresses it up to 365 times in the Bible. So the Angels comforted the shepherds and broke into a celebration song.

The shepherds heard the song and were filled with joy. Generation after generation had been waiting, anticipating this announcement. They were not the scholars who regularly studied scripture, but they had experienced the traditions and celebrations and knew that those celebrations pointed to something more. In ancient days, God led the people out of captivity from Egypt. They celebrated life paid for by the lamb’s blood every year as they ate the Passover meal. And they had been told that God would act again. They heard the announcement that salvation was here and were filled with joy. They couldn’t wait to find this baby and tell everyone they knew the good news.

Finding Joy

I think as a modern world, we have become desensitized to joy. Maybe particularly in the United States. Our culture is founded and driven by the worship of capitalism, which demands more and better. Stop and think about it for a moment. If a company makes a million dollars in profits, it is not considered successful unless it makes more the next year, into infinity. We live with the unspoken driving value of throwing off any limitations. We rarely pay attention to the cost of resources (whether people, money, or nature) until they are gone or running low. Today, people expect more and demand more. We make enemies of anyone who might try to limit our ambition. Rather than admitting our deficiency, we look for the reason in others and the systems. Joy is fleeting because we need bigger and bigger reasons to find joy.

Jesus reminds us that it is with child-like faith that we see and participate in the kingdom. The Kingdom of God turns this world on its head. You don’t have to produce to be loved. Your value is not based on how or what good you can do. God welcomes you to rest and sabbath at His feet. Maturing in Christ means that we come to accept our limits. We can agree with God that we are not infinite and unable to do everything. Even when we mess up, make a mistake, or make a bad choice, we are welcomed back by the loving Father. That is the good news of a savior. That is the never-ending source of our joy. We share the joy the shepherds felt when they heard that a savior had been born.

All the Small Things

Maybe there is not much in your life that is going right. You aren’t trying to outdo last year’s earnings; you are just trying to make it through today. Jesus most often meets people in very similar situations. So, He reminds them to look at the small things. Mustard seeds, yeast in bread, and little children are pictures of God’s kingdom at work. You might not see it, but then, at the right time, suddenly, it is there in all of its glory. So Jesus teaches his disciples to pray in simplicity. Give me today what I need. Forgive me, and help me forgive others. And he gives the gift of the Spirit, which brings peace, love, joy into our lives, and on the list goes.

I find myself the most joy-filled when I look for the ways I am thankful. My life can get so caught up in the busyness, stress, conflict, and the things that need to be accomplished that I can forget to stop and give thanks. And when I do that, I allow discontent, fear, and worry to sneak into my heart. When we stop and give thanks, we are reminded of all the reasons to have joy. Even if all you can say thank you for today is the breath you breathe, start there. When you begin to count your blessings, you will run out of time to address your worries and fears. And as you count, you are reminded of how you can trust in God the Father. You can trust that He will help you make it through the day. And tomorrow, you can wake up, smile, and cry, “Again! Again!”

Advent 2023 Series – Part 1 Part 2
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