Sunday, Dec. 15, at First Baptist Church Chattanooga, we celebrated the third week of Advent by lighting the joy candle.

After last Sunday’s decorating efforts our massive auditorium now has a unique aura reminding us a special guest is on his way.

The apostle Paul repeatedly speaks in the book of Philippians of being joyful even as he lingered in a prison cell.

To me, joy is a very spiritual gift that isn’t dependent on gifts or circumstances.  You can be joyful whether you’re rich or poor, a leader or a follower, sick or well, old or young. 

Today our children’s, youth, and adult choirs thrilled our hearts with special music.  As the worship hour neared its end many adults left their pews and ascended to the choir loft to join in singing a portion of Handel’s Messiah.

In my estimation no Christmas music ever written can equal this majestic masterpiece.

King of kings and Lord of Lords.  He shall reign forever and ever!

Early Christmas Disappointment Brings Joy 50 Years Later

It was 1939 and my third grade Christmas easily is remembered as the saddest in my childhood memory bank.  We’d left our rural roots and moved to the tiny town of Waycross, Georgia where Mama was temporarily hired by the government-run WPA.  When she was no longer employed our family finances would hit an all-time low.

For months I lingered in front of the redemption shopping center salivating over a Betsy Wetsy doll.  I made sure God, Santa, and Mama all knew what I wanted for Christmas, only to have my heart crushed on Christmas morn.

My brother, employed as a clerk in the Southern Railroad office, was caught up in the national mania attached to Atlanta’s premiere of Gone with the Wind.  He had sent me a beautiful replica of Scarlett O’Hara.  When I opened my Christmas package my heart took a nose dive!  Where was my Betsy Wetsy doll?  I remember flinging the beautiful Scarlett replica onto the bed and bursting into tears.

Some 50-plus years later in a San Francisco toy shop my eyes lit on a miniature replica of my third grade Christmas memory.  Today it remains in a prominent place in my apartment year round to remind of the deep love and joy my elder brother John had for me.  The oldest and youngest had a special bond nothing could destroy.  What as a third grader brought me great disappointment today floods my heart of hearts.  The name John is another way of spelling Christmas joy.

Prayer thought: Lord, teach us that “God talking” is no substitute for “God walking.”  It’s easy to repeat the phrase peace be with you, but far more difficult to take a stand when the path of peace is being trampled.  Lord, grant us wisdom to know the difference.