Saturday before the Third Sunday of Advent

2 Chronicles 30:13-27, Nehemiah 8:7-12, Jeremiah 15:16

The passage in Nehemiah has some depth. First, the people (the Jewish people) were so ignorant of their own history and holy scriptures, that both had to be explained to them. As they learned what their God had instructed them on how to live, many began to weep (mourn) as they understood that because of their failures, they were separated from God. However, the Levites comforted the people, leading them to understand that this was not a time to grieve, but a time for joy. God’s forbearing grace at work.

We see same that same grace in 2 Chronicles. The people were celebrating Passover wrongly (they were ritually unclean). Yet, instead of condemnation, there was grace. In this case, the grace was after some affliction, but one can infer that the affliction was a result of not doing things as required. Yet, instead of being cast out, they celebrate with others, praising God. So much joy poured out into doubling the celebration!

The experience of this kind of joy can only come through the awareness of just how much grace God gives. No matter how much grace God may pour out, the passages makes it clear, their hearts turned toward God first before they received grace and/or were healed. God called them first, yet, God’s glory, grace, love and healing doesn’t show up until they turn to God with repentant hearts.

Note also that while the people’s hearts may have been turned to God, there was still a need for intercession by others. This is important to grasp. We all need others to intercede for us.

From our perspective, the Jewish people were just minding their own business, where they were. They were trying within their contest to fit into the world around them. In fact, much of their problem was indeed that they were successful in fitting into the world around them, so much so, that they wandered away from God.

1) Do you struggle with fitting into the world around you? Do you struggle fitting into what you think is the church or Christian world?

2) Why is understanding one’s starting point essential to feeling joy?

3) What is the similarity between joy and happiness? What’s the difference?

KD) What makes you the most joy-filled? How does that make you think about God?