You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Psalm 16:11 NIV
As we journey through the candles of Advent for each Sunday during this season, we come to the third Sunday in Advent, which represents joy. It leads us to reflect on the joy that comes through Jesus’ arrival, and for the salvation and abundant life for which he has gifted us. It gives us pause to reflect on what gives us joy in our lives—true, sustaining, and everlasting joy. It is ironic that each year we celebrate the season of Christmas with a materialistic fervor, buying and spending for Christmas gifts, for decorations, and for Christmas attire. We do so while declaring that we certainly don’t find pure joy in “things.” Yet we strive after these “things” anyway.
When I was a grad student at SMU in Dallas, I went to many of their home basketball games. During a break in the action, the cheerleaders would throw these small plastic basketballs into the stands for people to catch as souvenirs.
Well, I was at a game one time when they started throwing these souvenirs into the stands. I thought it was all quite silly to be getting all excited about a little toy basketball you could buy at the souvenir stand for 50 cents. That is until I looked up, and lo and behold there was one of those basketballs heading my way. Suddenly I turned into a 7-year-old, and I wanted that basketball. There was nothing I wanted more in the world but that little red plastic basketball.
The ball was thrown over my head, but I leaped up and caught it. It was mine! I was very proud and excited at my new treasure, but I could only savor my conquest for a few seconds, because I looked up and there was another one heading my way. Suddenly there was nothing more that I wanted in life than to have two of those little red basketballs. Well, I caught that one, too. Oh, what joy!
But my joy was short-lived. I sat there and looked at my new prized possessions and pondered, “Why in the world would I want two little red plastic basketballs?” I was in my 30s, not a 7-year-old. They didn’t look so valuable anymore. So, I hesitantly turned around and handed them to the two boys behind me, and wondered to myself, why didn’t I just step aside and let them catch the basketballs in the first place?
This is sometimes how we feel in chasing down things in life we feel will give us joy, only to find out that the joy is temporary, fleeting. The focus on Christmas is giving. God’s nature is to give, yet at the same time, to show us that those things in life we think we can’t live without – guess what, we can! And what God wants to do is to replace those things we think we can’t live without with things that last forever, things that give us deep joy—like salvation, peace, love, hope, contentment, and unburdened lives.
When we really get down to it, the things we need most in life that bring us pure joy are those things that God wants to give us. Advent reminds us that Christmas is not simply about giving, but that God is the ultimate giver and He gives us the greatest gift of all, Jesus Christ. May we be filled with the joy of God’s precious gift to us this Advent season.