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December 11, 2015

Advent 2015-3: Joy

I love pumpkin pie. Not so much the actual pie itself, but the words, “pumpkin pie”. Don’t get me wrong, if you offer me a slice of pumpkin pie, especially if it is liberally topped with whipped cream, I am not likely to decline. It’s hard to resist that tasty pastry which seems to only surface in supermarkets and kitchens for two or three month each year. Packed full of delicious spices that scream fall, family and festivities with each bite. And as if that weren’t enough why not add something creamy and sweet, cool and smooth on top just for good measure. It is a delicious, delectable dessert. But that’s not what I love. I love the words.

I know that sounds weird to you, but let me give you the backstory. This Thanksgiving at our church we should a short video ( about the true meaning of the holiday. At the end of the clip [spoiler alert] Uncle Butters pulls a piece of pumpkin pie out of the trash and goes on a 30 second rant about the savages who would commit such an atrocity. “Hooligans! They’re all hooligans I tell you!”

It’s been two months since we showed that video and yet if you say “pumpkin pie” anywhere in earshot of my boys they will launch into a vaudeville routine inspired by Uncle Butters’ rant. And when they do, I can’t help but laugh. Even just thinking about it makes me smile. Not because their comedic timing is right on the mark or because they get all their lines perfectly right – which they rarely do, but simply because in that moment my boys are bursting with joy and it is contagious. I just can’t help but grin and egg them on and even join in. That’s just how joy works.

As I sit here and think about it, I realize that pumpkin pie joy is really just an echo of the joy God wants to give all of us through Jesus. Paul tells the church in Philippi, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). In other words, there is something about Jesus that should give us that same sense of glee. Thoughts of what Jesus has done for us should never fail to curl the corner of our mouth into a grin. Pondering all that Jesus has promised us should always lift our spirits. In Paul’s mind, if thinking about Jesus doesn’t fill you with joy then you don’t really understand what Jesus is all about. Quite an amazing perspective from a guy who was shipwrecked, whipped, beaten, run out of town, falsely accused, arrested and generally treated badly most places he went.

Paul tells this same group of Christians in Philippi, “Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.” (Philippians 3:1 NIV) Joy is not a requirement or an obligation it is an inescapable reality and it is for our own good. It is a safeguard to us. It protects us from bitterness, hopelessness and despair. Just like some of my more sullen moods can be broken by the thought of my boys cheering out “Hooligans!” the thought of all that Jesus is, has done, continues to do and promises to do in the future is meant to fill every hollow corner of my heart and immerse me in a joy that endures and sustains regardless of the situation and circumstances around me.

God’s joy is always sufficient, but sometimes I need someone like Uncle Butters to come along and remind be that it is there for the taking and I would absolutely crazy not to eat it up!

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