Third Sunday in Advent
The Advent devotionals in this series were created for use by families, but they could also be adapted for use with youth or adults, in a group, or for individual reflection.
Music, art, and quotes from other materials will accompany each week’s devotional. Reflection questions will be a part of every program. You may use these questions in a discussion group, in your family (including young children), or possibly a youth group.
Each reflection time consists of the following:
- Candle Lighting and an excerpt from a hymn. It is recommended that you use a hymnal and sing the whole verse!
- Recitation, a short expression. If you are doing this as a family or in a group, it’s recommended that you split the expression into parts and have each group speak out different parts of the sentence. This is especially important for children.
- Reflection on the Scripture and/or topic for the week.
- Discussion questions to help you explore what you think and feel. No one knows the mind of God and therefore the thoughts that come to mine are worthy of entertaining. Those meeting in a group should ask questions of one another. Think about what each one says. Ask questions like, “Why do you think that?” This will help get a bigger picture of each other’s thoughts.
- Prayer that can be a quiet prayer, a walking prayer, a movement prayer, an art prayer, a musical prayer.
The themes for each week are Light, Love, Joy, and Peace.
Optional: Do you have a movement (from yoga, etc.) that can help embody these “concepts” deeper into our bodies? Do that every night! (i.e., Sun Salutation for Light or Warrior for Love)
Advent Week 3: Joy
by Kathleen Stone
Sing a verse of “Joy to the World!,” The United Methodist Hymnal #246, verse 2, as you light the third candle.
If you have more than one person reflecting together, read the following as a call and response. If there’s only one person, read it three or four times until it comes into your heart.
Voice 1: We want to be joyful!
Voice 2: And bring joy to the world!
There’s so much joy in the story of Jesus’ birth. All that longing we found last week in our reflection, seems to be resolved! On Christmas Day, love reigns. For all the characters in the Christmas story, the motto is, “joy to the world!”
There’s so much joy in the Christmas story and so many hymns speak of that joy! Joy was also experienced way before Jesus was born. Look at what the author of this psalm wrote about!
Read the verses of the psalm together and stop occasionally and create hand/body movements to go with the beauty of Psalm 146:5–7:
Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God,
who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free;
If there are words in the text that are not understood by children or even by yourself, define them or take a minute to look them up!
In what ways is this writer joyful?
How does remembering the God who made all the diverse and crazy things, heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever, helps us to execute justice for the oppressed, provide food for the hungry and set the prisoners free?
What images come to mind when you hear “who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever”? How does this feed us with joy? How might you connect this God who does these things, with the Christmas story?
Reflection for Children and Families:
This is an alternate reflection for children/families and adults. You can choose either reflection depending on your group’s needs.
Do a search on your phone or computer for videos of babies laughing and giggling. Play some YouTube videos of babies giggling for your family.
Try to laugh like the babies together if you are with a group or if you’re not, try to laugh like the babies by yourself! It’s contagious!
What does laughter feel like? Describe what a giggle feels like.
Do you think God laughs? What about the angels? Do you think they laugh when something so joyous and even tricky happens like the birth or resurrection of Jesus? Isn’t it interesting that so few painters painted angels laughing! Do you know of a painting or a picture where angels are laughing? Maybe you might draw/paint/color one?
In tough times, laughter can relieve so much stress!
How can I, our group, or our family remember joy and laughter and giggling when we bring food to the hungry, help the oppressed find justice? Or set the prisoners free? How can we giggle a little more while remembering the sea creatures, the hippopotamuses, the kangaroos, the sea horses and even our own selves, our own families, our own little and big struggles through life?
Reflection for Adults and Youth:
Read aloud this quote from Tracey Michae’l Lewis – Giggetts:
My great-grandmother understood the difference between joy and happiness. The latter, a temporary state of being, may have felt the same as the former in that there was that same adrenaline or dopamine rush. But Nanny knew how to call on the ever-present undercurrent of joy, even when happy moments were few and far between. It’s why she rocked that pain out of her body in those church pews. It’s why that great-great-aunt would wind that pain out of her hips at the juke joint. My ancestors knew that they didn’t have to go out and find joy. They knew that joy, unlike happiness, is something that we’re born with; it’s our birthright. They clearly understood what Octavia Raheem writes in her book Pause, Rest, Be: Stillness Practices for Courage in Times of Change: “Joy is an act of rebellion. And so is allowing ourselves to feel our grief.” They knew that joy and pain, joy and rage, joy and grief occupy the same vessel. (Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts, “Black Joy in Pursuit of Racial Justice,” Yes! Magazine, May 18, 2022, yesmagazine.org/issue/pleasure/2022/05/18/black-joy-racial-justice )
Questions for Youth and Adults:
Discuss this quote with one another. How does it help us reflect upon experiencing joy even in very hard times?
If we look at all the persons in the Christmas story, they had much to be sad and mad about! What do you think that would be?
Some possible answers:
Mary and Joseph (had to travel a long distance away from home for a governmental obligation and taxation, couldn’t find room in the inn, etc.)
The wisemen were threatened with violence from Herod if they did not return to him and tell him where Jesus was.
The shepherds were incredibly prejudiced against and oppressed and alienated from society.
But they found joy! And so many have painted, wrote about, expressed this deep joy ever since!
Position your body in a joyful position even though you may have troubles! How might you be more giggling, dancing, loving? How might you face your own hunger, prison, oppression with this deep and powerful joy?
God of Love, help us remember joy in the middle of things that are hard. Help us reach out our hands, expand our hearts and see the love all around us more fully and experience joy.
Kathleen Stone is former staff of United Women in Faith and a retired elder in the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference. She is lead writer for the 2023 United Women in Faith children’s curriculum, We are the Kin-dom!