Advent Daily Devotional: WEEK of JOY: Day 19-Thurs, Dec 16

You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.
— Psalm 30:11

He has redeemed my soul from going down to the Pit,
    and my life shall see the light. — Job 33:28

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Whatever the time of day you have chosen for this activity, light your three Advent candles. The light of joy returns because you choose to bring it into your space and your life. You create the opening to welcome it.

            Although our Advent reflections have touched on the concept of shifting perspective as a strategy to cultivate hope and joy, perhaps a few specific approaches can help give you more ideas about how to open yourself to joy in all sorts of circumstances. After all, you may not control your situation, yet you can shape your response. The Dalai Lama observes, “The question is not: How do I escape? It is: How can I use this as something positive?”

            As one approach to gaining a holistic perspective, spiritual teachers such as the ancient Sufi poet Rumi and the contemporary Buddhist chaplain and mentor Joan Halifax advise you to approach each experience as a teacher. Then allow yourself to become its student. This creates a different perspective about the experience you’re having.

            In one dramatic example, people who live with cancer or other life-limiting diagnoses discover a heightened appreciation for simple, tangible, fleeting moments of life. Brushes with death re-prioritize how they cherish small details of daily living.

            Now ask yourself, in your own current circumstances, what lesson might be learned? What action might be taken? What ought to change? What are you able to change? How do you make meaning out of your current reality? How do you respond to what is happening? How does this situation empower you?

            Another way to gain perspective and make meaning out of an experience, cultivating the deep capacity for joy regardless of the circumstances, is to find release through the way you express yourself. Creative outlets permit you to liberate a wellspring of joy. Singing and music, for instance, light up many parts of the brain. They allow a person to access deeply-embedded emotional states, memories, and experiences. Other expressive arts also create paths toward joy and resilience. Almost every mention of joy within scripture is connected to the act of singing, dancing, or otherwise expressing joy dynamically. From such artistic, expressive processes, meaning-making (purpose) arises.

            What might these three Advent lights, their wicks darkened and curled, their tapers slumping more each day, each candle shorter than its companions, teach you? What within your life also needs care and renewal, so that the light of joy may continue to burn passionately within you?— Rev Gail

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When you can stop and ask yourself, “How can I help,” or, “How can I be of service,” you create a new internal dialogue that leads to alternative and expanded ways of thinking and responding. … You have something to offer, a gift brought into this world to share with others. It could be your ability to listen, give a great hug, advocate for those in need, build something, or be there for someone. In being able to share this gift, you build a greater sense of connection and belonging, something you can relate to as a basic need. Joy is often a side effect of what can happen when you are in the service of something greater than yourself. — Rachelle Williams

Joy is the holy fire that keeps our purpose warm and our intelligence aglow. —Helen Keller

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