This is Pastor Tim’s article that appeared in the Evening Leader on Monday, December 16, 2019
Week three of the Advent journey is when we light the candle of joy. We are all well aware that the peace and hope I wrote about the past few weeks are in short supply, but I don’t know if there is any of the four Advent candles that represent anything as rare as this one. This is the week that we light the pink candle in the wreath to signify joy.
I see so little joy in the world these days that I almost feel the need to define what it is as if no one knows what this mysterious joy word is all about. I don’t know if I could give you a clear definition of joy, but I know it when I see it. So instead of a boring definition of joy, I want to tell you the last place I saw someone experience joy.
I was recently at a family birthday party for a 5-year-old little boy. This little boy is Mario crazy. If you don’t know who the Super Mario Bros. are, they are video game characters. He absolutely loves Mario and the whole party was Mario-themed. This kid had a pile of presents to open, so he was working his way through them all. On Black Friday, I had ordered him a comforter and sheet set of Mario for his bed. It was a nice gift and I got a really good deal on it. So on his birthday, he was very excited, opening toys that were all Mario-themed. Then he reached into the pile and pulled out that comforter. I didn’t think the comforter would get too big of a reaction from a 5-year-old boy who had a pile of new toys. Well, he opened it and he covered his face with his hands and just shook. At first, I couldn’t tell what the reaction meant, but then his mom said his name and I realized he was borderline in tears. He said, “That’s exactly what I asked for.” He was ecstatic. He tore into the comforter and wrapped up in it. He looked at the pillow and unrolled the sheets. I sort of felt bad because everyone else brought toys and this crazy comforter got a far bigger reaction than any of the toys. Even I didn’t expect that.
There were almost 2 dozen people in the room, watching him open gifts. His reaction to this crazy comforter was so big that he lit up the whole room. As he was opening the other toys everyone else got him, I was actually a little embarrassed at how lame my gift was. I was wishing I would have gotten him some toys, too (because I happen to love toys myself). His reaction was so big that I went from a little embarrassed to wishing I had bought him two comforters because joy just flowed out of that child. It was quite a sight to behold.
That is what joy does. It fills a space so much that everyone in the room is aware of what is happening. Nobody was watching TV and, with the exception of snapping pictures and shooting video, no one was playing on their phone. A whole room full of adults couldn’t take their eyes off of one little person who filled a huge house with joy.
I am sure that in that house, among those 2 dozen people, there were differences of politics, religion, economic status and many other differences. There were people in that room who were friends of his that I didn’t even know. But in that moment, we were all unified and focused on one little kid whose joy brought all of us together. Our differences became irrelevant because of how much joy was happening.
I was proud of that little 5-year-old. He kept that energy level up most of the day. Even when the party was winding down and he was obviously running out of energy, he still kept going. I am sure he slept like a brick that night. He managed to teach a tired old man like me the value of joy by warming my cynical old heart. That is what Christmas is supposed to do – we gather around a child to experience joy that we don’t always feel. Sometimes we need help getting over ourselves to allow joy to happen in our own hearts.
I can’t promise something as wonderful as a Super Mario comforter for your bed, but during this Advent season, all of our local churches will be taking time to remember joy as we prepare for the celebration of Christmas. We hope that you will join us so that we can all share in the joy together!