Advent Week 3: Joy

By Tina Baldis | December 17, 2023  |  Return to Blog  

Joy in Darkness

Christmas in Slovakia includes all of the Christian Catholic traditions of celebrating Jesus’ birth including observing the advent. But it is also a dark time of year, because of our long winter season with December nights lasting up to 16 hours! Another aspect of this darkness is that many Slovak people become self-described cynics or "realists" to get through the winter months. However, in spite of the darkness, you can still find glimmers of joy!

Glimmers of Joy

Last year, my parents had gone to the States for 3 months, and I was managing the ministry here in Slovakia. In December, I caught a horrible flu that knocked me off my feet for three weeks. Since I was completely alone and very weak, I could barely take care of myself, let alone our animals and the house. The glimmers of joy came through the people God used to help take care of me. Olga, who brought me Christmas dinner when I could hardly cook for myself. Anastasia, our Ukrainian friend, who kept our house clean, helped me with our animals and even brought me medicine. Nikola and Dominik who walked our dog. Peter and Lucia who brought me groceries and pet food. The combination of dark nights, sickness, and loneliness had me struggling to find joy that Christmas season. But the unexpected people that God sent gave me those glimmers of joy shining bright in the dark night. On another dark night in Bethlehem, the angels told the shepherds, “I bring you good news of great joy for all people!” (Luke 2:10)Joy has come because Jesus has come!

Finding Complete Joy

Interestingly, besides the shepherds, John the Baptist is the other traditional focus of the advent theme of joy. We don’t usually think of John the Baptist being an example of joy, but he was. He had a joy that originated from Jesus. The first example was before he was even born. In Luke 1:44, John jumped for joy in his mother’s womb when he sensed Jesus was nearby. Isn’t it amazing how God was able to give an unborn baby joy?

Later, when Jesus started His ministry, some of John’s disciples seemed to be upset that people were following Jesus more than John. So, John tells them in John 3:28-30,  “You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’  The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.”– John’s joy was complete in Jesus; he was humble enough to realize that he must decrease while Jesus must increase.

Did John always have perfect joy? No, he was human and had his doubts. After he was thrown into prison by Herod, John sent his disciples to ask Jesus a question: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Luke 7:20). John was doubting because of the dire situation he was in. Jesus didn’t rebuke him for not having faith or joy, but just confirmed that He was the Messiah who was promised. Jesus went on to compliment John and confirm that He was God’s messenger.

Did John experience joy when he heard that? I don’t know, but I like to think he did.


Surrender: the Key to Joy

How about us? In what do we place our joy? In our family, our church, our security? True joy comes from a much deeper place than happiness. Our temporary happiness fluctuates with circumstances, but joy does not. We can have the joy of the Lord no matter what is going on in the world or our personal lives. Of Jesus it was said for our encouragement in Hebrews 12:2, “for the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross….” Keeping your eyes on Jesus can give you the strength to maintain joy during trying times.

Is it easy? No, because things happen to us that threaten to steal our joy. Recently, we have had heartbreak, tears, exhaustion, dealing with a death, misunderstandings, travel, and just normal ministry. This Christmas, you may also experience disappointment from family, friends, or circumstances. But we can choose to have joy in spite of them. The key is to surrender – through repentance, humbling ourselves, despite doubts and problems, and fixing our eyes on Jesus.

An Advent Prayer

Lord, I long for the joy that comes from you. In all circumstances, whether good or bad, guide me “into your presence where there is fullness of joy; and to your right hand where there are pleasures forevermore.” (Ps. 16:11) Amen.