A 15-Day Christmas Devotional for an Untraditional Year

Craig Denison

Host of So, you’re having a baby

A higher promise of joy

I haven’t thought much about joy this year.

Joy feels like the kind of word better fit for Christmas throw pillows than to be used to describe my actual experiences. After all, how can we experience joy when every day a new layer of crisis seems to unfold? How can we experience joy when so many of those experiences that normally spark joy are removed from us and we’re not sure when we’ll get them back?

Joy seems to me like the feeling you get when everything else is going right. It’s like an emotional solstice, a momentary experience when faith, family, work, and purpose magically align at the right time in the right ways.

But this pandemic has had me wondering, what if I didn’t earn my way to joy? What if my days, actions, emotions, and decisions began with saying yes to the fruit of the Spirit as an outcome of abiding rather than achieving?

What if I carried joy through every circumstance, the good and the hard, instead of accepting it is a symptom of the “best” circumstances?

I honestly used to hate these words from James:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

—James 1:2–3

The sentiment of this passage always felt lacking in empathy, like an unrealistic expectation no one could really meet.

But now, in the experience of hardship this year, I’m seeing these words from James as one of God’s highest invitations—that in God we truly can find a joy that isn’t experienced because of our circumstances but in the midst of them. That God truly is so good, so capable, and so present with us that he can wholly redefine our experience of joy.

What if you began your day with joy, and kept it in the face of whatever might come your way? What if you began your day embodying and exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit that comes not by achieving, but from abiding?

Ponder these questions below and allow the Spirit to move in your heart and mind right now to help you say yes to God’s higher promise of joy for you today.

Guided Reflection

  1. What normally brings you a sense of joy? What normally robs you of joy?
  2. What would be different about your life if you received joy in the midst of your circumstances rather than getting it because of your circumstances?
  3. What could a rhythm look like to close out this year for you to develop an abiding connection with God and receive joy as a fruit of that connection?

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