Throughout Advent, we “anticipate” and prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth long ago. Yet the season of Advent also calls us to remember what God has for us here and now: Joy, new life, and the reality of being profoundly changed by believing in His Son. The Bible tells us that, after visiting the infant Jesus, the shepherds returned home, “glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told” (Luke 2:20 ESV). Like the shepherds, may you reflect this week on the transformational joy at the heart of the Christmas story.
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
and on earth peace among those with whom
he is pleased!”
In 2013, Thenjiwe, already the sole caregiver to 7 grandchildren, took in two more of her grandchildren after the whereabouts of their mother and father became unknown. The family of 10 was living in an un-roofed house, struggling with food inadequacies and with no means for the children to attend school. Emotionally, this loving grandmother and these orphaned children were weary.
However, the local church, Agape Missions Cowdray Park in Zimbabwe, saw Thenjiwe’s needs. Church members roofed two of the rooms of the simple home, began supplying food supplements, and paid fees for the school-aged children to attend school. The church also established a home group service to provide strong spiritual support and counseling to Thenjiwe and her family members.
Like the shepherds in the field who returned praising God, today the sounds of the children’s joyful singing are heard throughout the homestead. They joyfully attend school and church activities, and Thenjiwe has also become very committed to her church. She holds her head higher because Forgotten Voices’ partnership with Agape Missions has helped lift her up.
Embodying Transformational Joy
When our lives embody the joy of our God, He transforms our hearts, and gives us a love for others greater than we could hope or imagine. Forgotten Voices works with local church partners in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi – places where children and families face illness and death, drought and food insecurity, extreme poverty and other difficult realities each day. Yet testimonies like Thenjiwe’s declare how God’s love is powerfully at work through His local church.
The great theologian John Stott once said, “We may be the only Bible that some people ever read.” Taking this wisdom to heart, rather than despairing in the face of difficult situations, Forgotten Voices seeks to carry out our mission with a spirit of JOY, giving glory to God for the gift of new life He has given each one of us through His Son, Jesus.
Questions for Reflection:
- Have you ever felt weary because of difficult circumstances? How did God provide for you in that time?
- Are you aware of specific ways your local church is blessing your community? Take time to encourage and pray for church leaders and ministries that are seeking to proclaim the gospel in your community and around the world.
- Thinking about John Stott’s quotation (“We may be the only Bible that some people ever read.”), what story do people see when they “read” your life? Are you living in a way that reflects your joy in Christ?
- Name two or three things God has done – that you have personally seen or experienced – that brought you joy. Share these reflections with a friend, a family member or a co-worker to give God glory and spread His joy this week!