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ADVENT DEVOTIONAL DECEMBER 8: JINGLE BELLS

Always be joyful. 

I Thessalonians 5:16

Our older son, Dustin, is now a college student in his twenties. It seems like only yesterday he was a first grader in Sunday School at South Main. One December morning, he and his classmates spent the Sunday School hour singing Christmas carols. When Sherri and I arrived to pick him up, his teacher told us that Dustin had enthusiastically participated in the Christmas carols — up to a point. Apparently, after the first several carols, Dustin placed his hands on his hips and announced, “No more Jesus songs! I want to sing Jingle Bells!”

I suppose I could cite this story as an illustration of how creeping secular commercialism has hijacked the Christmas season. I could. But I won’t. Instead, this story reminds me of the joy the Christmas season brought to both of my sons, Dustin and Graham. We adults don’t do joy nearly as well as our kids. We often tend to resist joy more than we embrace it. 

Jesus embraced joy. He gave his friends nicknames. Mark 3:17. He liked puns. Matthew 16:18. He enjoyed a good party, even changing water into grape juice — and not just ordinary grape juice, but premium grape juice. John 2:1-11. He preferred the company of fishermen to self-righteous Pharisees. Luke 5:1-11. 

The problem with the Pharisees, of course, was that they had no joy at all; they tried to wear folks down rather than lift them up. Matthew 23:1-4. The Pharisees could have used a dose of Jingle Bells — “bells on bob-tail ring, making spirits bright.”

God gave us the gift of joy. And joy is a gift that keeps giving. If we’re joyful, those around us cannot help but be joyful too. Because of the gift of joy, we laugh. We dance (gasp!). And yes, we sing. Not just Jesus songs, but loud and boisterous songs that themselves give us great joy — “over the fields we go, laughing all the way.”

Father, thank you for the gift of joy. And in the hustle and bustle of this Christmas season, help us smile away any little frustrations or annoyances. Help us embrace joy. Amen. 

Byron Keeling and his wife, Sherri, have been members of South Main since 1994. Dustin is a senior at Sam Houston State, and Graham is a sophomore at American University.


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