Advent 2018, Week 3: Celebration (Joy)

Abundance of Ribbon by Bernard Hoyes (Jamaica)

Abundance of Ribbon by Bernard Hoyes (Jamaica)

Written by Rae’Jean Spears

“When first I started to seek the Lord,
I’m glad I counted the cost;
I fully measured to Jesus’ Word;
I’m glad I counted the cost…”

—I’m Glad I Counted the Cost; hymn written by William J. Henry (1907)

Growing up, this was one of my grandmother’s favorite hymns. And while it was usual to hear her singing it on a Sunday morning while getting ready for church, she sang it with the most vigor in her tone after a long day’s work. The days she came home and barely touched dinner. The days I saw her sit at the table and mill over bills. The days she stayed up until the late midnight hour walking the floor. Those were the days she reminded herself that she had already counted the cost. And because she had already counted the cost, she knew she could wake up the next day and continue to face the world around her with an unmatched joy. 

How many of us can say that in the midst of all things 2018, we continue to walk in joy?

No one can deny the trials that 2018 has brought. We traveled to Wakanda and came back to more deadly mass school shootings, children being tear gassed and put in cages, city officials reminding people of color in St. Louis of their true feelings with the #ArchSoWhite, and a number of other events being led under this country’s current regime. At a first glance, one might ask how is even possible to walk in joy when faced with so much. Instead, I ask, how is it possible not to?

I’m reminded here of Paul. Author of most of the New Testament, consistently facing persecution, yet still remained joyful and wrote passages to encourage us to do the same. I’m also reminded of Ruth. After her husband died, tradition told her to go back to her family so she could remarry and be taken care of. Instead, Ruth stayed with Naomi and found comfort and joy in the community and sisterhood that surrounded her. 

Finally, I’m reminded of Mary, the mother of Jesus. She was worried of the ridicule, shame and unbelief that would surround her as her pregnancy became known. After talking with Gabriel, however, she found relief in the reminder that she was the Lord’s servant and He had chosen her for this task. Mary could face her situation with joy because she knew the reward that was coming, both spiritual and physical, would be worth the turmoil. 

All of these people, Paul, Ruth, and Mary, were put in situations that would have made walking away seem understandable. Situations that would have made throwing in the towel and drowning in despair a lot more comfortable. Instead, they fought back. And they fought back by choosing joy. By choosing to focus on the joy of their Lord in even the most difficult times. 

But most importantly, even in choosing joy, they were not willfully ignorant. They did not choose to ignore what was happening around them or their feelings in reaction to it. And neither do we. It is possible to be both mad at your local government officials and make time for yourself to have a night out. It is possible to both stand up and protest against injustices and engage in quality self care. It is possible to relevant, to be informed, to be involved, and to yet and still have joy in the midst of it all. 

Paul wrote:

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”

Romans 8:18-21 

So, why do we choose to hold fast to joy? Because today’s trials are not worthy to be compared to what’s coming. Because we know the Son of God shall return again. Because we know that we will one day be set free from the corruption of this world. Because we know that our joy is powerful. It signals that we are actively laughing and resisting the urge to submit to the chaos around us. It signals that we came into this battle counting the cost and we have decided to yet be joyful because we know Who to look to for it. 

Songs: Joy – Vashawn Mitchell; Joyful Joyful – Lauryn Hill

Recommended Passages: Nehemiah 8: 9-18; Isaiah 12: 1-6; Ecclesiastes 9:7

Rae’Jean Spears is currently a graduate student who resides in St. Louis, Missouri.

Venneikia Williams