Joy to the World
Every church has a nativity on the front lawn; inside, children’s ministry leaders—you—are working like elves to bring the story of Jesus to life. You have had countless hours of meetings, planning, and preparing for the advent of our Saviour, Jesus. You can’t imagine a better time to kneel next to a child and whisper, 'He came for you,' and so you seize every weekend, every Sunday, every moment to do so.
The scent of fir fills the crisp air that has chilled with the early advent of darkness each afternoon. The sounds of carols and bells and plans being made mingle with the snow carried on a winter wind. The twinkle of lights has now created a glow over the town—you know the look: whether from the bulb inside a neighbour’s inflatable Santa or the flashing of the choreographed LEDs the next street over, light is present all around.
Every church has a nativity on the front lawn; inside, children’s ministry leaders—you—are working like elves to bring the story of Jesus to life. From a birthday party in his honour to the Eve of His birth, no opportunity has been left unexplored. You have had countless hours of meetings, planning, and preparing for the advent of our Saviour, Jesus. You can’t imagine a better time to kneel next to a child and whisper, 'He came for you,' and so you seize every weekend, every Sunday, every moment to do so.
You wrap a tiny baby doll in a soft blanket. You pass Him around and ask questions, fostering curiosity and wonder in the tiny humans you adore, for the One you adore most. You watch their eyes light up as you invite them to ponder a Love like this until it bubbles over into an uncontained joy. They imagine the donkey ride (and the smell!), the crowds (and the noise!), the dark space outside the comforts of home where Mary laid her baby’s head, and the bright star in the sky that suspended time and space in that moment (it’s the brightest star ever!).
And then you notice the twinkle in their eyes: they are wide with awe. They seem to be holding their breath as their jaws come unhinged. You’ve just asked them 'Do you know why God sent Jesus to the world?' And they might know, but they wait. As you declare 'because God loves you so much,' they exhale and toothy (some toothless) smiles spread across their precious faces as if to say 'of course He does' and you agree!
It's in that moment that you remember the taste of joy. It’s sweet, but not cloying. It’s rich, but leaves you wanton for more. It’s warm and slowly seems to melt through you like salted caramel sauce on a perfect Christmas pudding.
Joy comes from somewhere deep inside and shows up almost involuntarily, like a yawn (only glorious!). It’s like a tug on that strand of DNA that is Imago Dei, the very image of God knit into us, that pulls up on all the muscles that cause laughter and delight to show up in our bodies and light up a room. Joy is uncontainable, and we know this because we see it in the kids we serve, especially at Christmastime.
Countless times in scripture we read 'so that you may be filled with joy.' Did you know that joy actually shows up in the Bible 365 times? There is literally enough joy for every day of the year!
What does it mean to be filled each day with joy, knowing there is plenty for tomorrow, should you use your full measure today? What would look different about the way you moved through your day if you trusted that your joy would not only be made complete, but that there would be enough?
On the night before He was crucified, Jesus spoke of joy:
'Just as the Father has loved me, I have loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love. In the same way, I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that you will have the same joy that I have. I also want your joy to be complete. Here is my command. Love one another, just as I have loved you. No one has greater love than the one who gives their life for their friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.'' John 15:9-14 (NIRV)
As Love gives way to joy, it is made complete in loving one another. And the way you love kids and families brings our Father pure joy, of that I am sure. Even as you count down the days (maybe hours) to a break or a deep breath, know that there is plenty of joy for this moment: more than enough to see you through and even more to be shared in the company of kids who have not yet unlearned the exuberance of pure joy.
Just like that caramel sauce, joy gets all over everything if you let the lid off the container. So let’s pop that lid like a confetti canon! As you consider the lavish sufficiency of joy every day, can I invite you to make joy sticky this season?
Can you wake each morning expectant of joy? When we expect Jesus to show up, we are prepared when He does!
Allow yourself to be surprised and delighted by joy. Allow your body to respond in a way that makes joy spread like light throughout the room.
Grow curious about how, where, and when joy might enter. Allow your expectation to ignite wonder within. Wonder is the posture of childlike faith we were never meant to outgrow, and joy may very well be how it bubbles over in the most loving way.
Love others with a generosity of joy—spoonfuls of caramel, belly laughs, and gasps of giddiness! Let it spill, let it flow, let it out!
May the knowledge of how long and wide and deep the love of Jesus is for you be the source of both your strength and your joy as you lead others to the moment when Love Himself came down.
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