Advent Week 3: Joy
Matthew 11.28-30, NRSV
Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
My heart was full, cluttered with fear, dread, and frustration. My sister and I were exhausted and broken hearted. The appointment with the only doctor who could help us had been made months before from a few states away. After all the waiting and expensive travel, we were not even allowed to see him. Our baby, her baby, was not a candidate for the radical surgery we had hoped would to give her a real shot at life. With a few hours to wait before the shuttle returned to pick us up, we wandered the halls of John’s Hopkins Hospital.
Advent anticipates a baby coming to save the world. Advent also often invites the anticipation of deep grief. For many the season is more something to survive than to celebrate. Collections of grief accumulate and threaten to overwhelm people at Christmas like shoppers after the Macy’s Day Parade. Instead of expecting the wonder of the Christ child we anticipate hauling around heavy boxes choc full of sadness. We pull out packed away Rubbermaids that illuminate abandoned dreams, loved ones gone too soon, loneliness. The heaviness of the stored up collections of grief can and does highjack many hearts during the Advent season.
Wondering the halls of this hospital, I wondered if I would ever sing about joy in a world again? Then my sister and I, strolling our broken baby, turned a corner and saw the 20-foot statue of Jesus opening his arms to what use to be the front doors of the ancient building. At the bottom of his feet were these words: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
God’s baby came to earth so that we might have life – abundant life – even in our brokenness. And that baby, our savior Jesus, offers to help us carry our heavy burdens! As we trust him with all that is weighing us down we can learn to breath again, stand up straight again – maybe even sing Joy to the World again.
Prayer: Dear God, please help me to trust you with all that is on my mind and heart today. Please help me understand how to let you carry some of the sadness I keep running into. Open my eyes to those around me who might need me to help them carry their sadness this season. Maybe show me a way to share a little encouragement with them. Help me give away your love this season of waiting, and to expect nothing in return. Thank you for always being near, for never leaving me alone. Thank you for coming Lord Jesus, Amen.
Action: Give yourself a simple gift today. Make a list of things that threaten to steal your joy this season. It might be anxiety about money, or finding the right gift for a child. It might be something else, like who you will miss spending the holidays with. Put the list in a box. Then wrap it up and tie it with a bow. Then write: “Do not open until January.” It does not go under a tree. Put it somewhere you can see. This Christmas present to yourself is a challenge to choose joy this Advent. It is an acknowledgement that you need help carrying a few things. If you are having a hard time, pick the box up and move it to a new space in the room as an act of prayer saying, “Jesus carry this burden with me please. Thank you for being near.”
Wrap up a box for someone who might need a little encouragement this Christmas. Put some paper and a pen inside, along with today’s verse. Explain how they might use the box and tell them you will be praying for them this Advent. Perhaps it will make their burden this season a bit lighter.
Colleen Boroughs is co-founder and Vice President of Communications of Passport Camp Inc in Birmingham, AL.