An Advent Prayer: In the Presence of Jesus There Is Joy

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     At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” Luke 1:39-45 (NIV)

     Dear Lord Jesus, too easily have I raced by this part of your nativity story—but what encouragement it brings me today. The image of John the Baptist leaping for joy in Elizabeth’s womb—just because he was in close proximity to you while you were in Mary’s womb, reminds me of another part of your story, thirty-three years later. On the night of your betrayal and arrest, just before going to the cross, you asked the Father to grant us the fullness of your joy (John 17:13). My only response to that is thank you, thank you, thank you; and let it be to me according to your prayer.

     I am so grateful to know that nothing has to change in my world and nobody has to be any different, for this prayer to be answered. I don’t need a different story, less suffering, or more guarantees; I don’t have to have a different personality, cooler church, or better health; live in a different era or even in a different neighborhood. The joy you give transcends (and transforms) tears, circumstances, and heartaches.

     Jesus, throughout Advent, I want to give you more worship than whining and more gratitude than grumbling. Just knowing you, or rather, being known and loved by you, makes me a man of incalculable riches. For “I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Who do I have in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but you are the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:23-26) So very Amen I pray, in your near and joy-full name.

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