Joy Ornament

Cultivate Joy

As pastors and worship leaders we may need to remind ourselves and those we lead in worship that our joy is rooted not in our immediate context but the much larger story of redemption.

Ebullience, glee, jocundity, mirth, rapture, transport…all words that I’m not sure I have ever used in a sentence; words to describe joy. Why is it that when it comes to the emotion of joy we utilize so few descriptive words? We talk about being glad or happy, not filled with mirth. Could it be that we are actually suspicious of joy? We want to tamper it down; it simply isn’t in vogue? Do we fear that if we are too joyful that we are setting ourselves up for disappointment? Maybe we even question if individuals who are joyful have simply lost sight of reality; they are living in denial. Can we experience joy amidst a pandemic? Yet, research tells us that happiness is possible in what most of us would consider difficult circumstances; that joy is possible regardless of one’s situation.

Scripture tells us that joy is an unrestrained response to salvation; both the immediate experience of overcoming our enemy, seen or unseen, and the remembrance of that salvation. As God’s saved people our joy is rooted in the surety of the promised resurrection, our own victory over death. Our salvation is as sure and real as the device you are reading this on. The reality of our salvation doesn’t change so neither does our ability to be filled with joy.

Next Sunday (December 13, 2020) is often associated with joy and the lighting of the pink candle on the Advent wreath. As pastors and worship leaders we may need to remind ourselves and those we lead in worship that our joy is rooted not in our immediate context but the much larger story of redemption. When our joy has its roots in the right place it isn’t fleeting but rises up even in the midst of difficult times. This joy is cultivated through our celebrations and remembrances that happen in our festival worship at Christmas and Easter but it also needs to be attended to in our daily walk with God, in the ordinary. Our joy needs to find expression through exuberant praise and quiet contemplation, in stringed instruments and dance, through visual arts and the written and spoken word, through acts of kindness, mercy, and justice, through mundane acts of tidying up, homework, and car maintenance. What can you do to help cultivate this sense of joy not just in this coming Sunday’s worship and Christmas day but all year?

Prayer Based on Psalm 126

As we pray together you will hear the repeated phrase “and so we declare with joy” to which you are invited to add aloud, “you have done great things for us”.

Saving God, 
restorer of all things,
the one who came to earth as the Christ child,
and has promised to come again,
who has said, that “Heaven and Earth may pass away, 
but your word, your promises will never pass away” (Mark 13:31, alt.),
open our eyes and our hearts
to the reality of our salvation.
We remember the gift of your son, Jesus Christ
and so we declare with joy
you have done great things for us

Restoring God,
We implore you to intercede in our world. 
[Include prayers for the world.]
You are the Mighty God, who rules all things
and so we declare with joy
you have done great things for us

Restoring God, 
we implore you to intercede in our nation and communities.
[Include prayers for our nation and community.]
While nations rise and fall and our communities thrive and struggle,
you are the Everlasting God, constant and true
and so we declare with joy
you have done great things for us

Restoring God, 
we implore you to provide for the health and wellbeing of all people,
so all may experience shalom. 
Today we remember:
[Include prayers for individuals.]
You are the Prince of Peace, the giver of shalom
and so we declare with joy
you have done great things for us

Restoring God, 
we pray especially today for those who mourn the death of loved ones, 
and those grieving other losses. 
[Include prayers that name those who are grieving death but also other losses, especially 
those experienced as a result of COVID-19. Consider including prayers for children and 
youth whose grief is often forgotten.]
You are the Wonderful counselor, our comforter,
and so we declare with joy
you have done great things for us

Restoring God, 
help us to confidently profess that: 
“Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy 
carrying sheaves with them.”
You are our savior,
and so we declare with joy
you have done great things for us
Amen. 

 

Additional Resources
Joy the Missing Ingredient
Real Joy, Genuine Faith: Biblical Lament During Advent

 

Joyce Borger, an ordained minister in the Christian Reformed Church, is editor of Reformed Worship and director of Worship Ministries of the Christian Reformed Church.