This is the third of a four-part Advent devotional written by Executive Director Joe Tucker. See prior posts on Hope, and Peace. 

One of the more unique challenges of my day is the honest answer to the simple question, “How are things going at South Street?”  As a Director, I wear many hats and oversee over a dozen programs, persons, and projects. Any one of those things could be in crisis-mode, a funding hardship (or blessing!), or simply be running well, while being continually exposed to some of the brokenness and toxicity of the world around us.

For example, this Saturday we hosted our Fourth annual Christmas store! It was a Joy! Dozens of After School youth came through to shop for gifts for their families. Studio teenagers helped and participated. And many kind volunteers wrapped, iced cookies, and cleaned up. Yet the event ended with a staff member and I waiting for the Akron Police Department to pick up some drug paraphernalia that a volunteer had found outside.

Ministry life has its ups and downs. So does everyday life.

I left the Christmas Store to return home to have a challenging, yet needed talk with some extended family. It was uncomfortable and emotionally wearing. I then proceeded to take my eldest son (2 and a half) Christmas shopping for his little brother. It was an endearing time for me.

Everyday life has its ups and downs.

This Sunday, the third candle of Advent represents Joy. I’ve had a hard time drafting a South Street blog around joy.  Joy seems to be elusive, especially in 2017. I’d rather scroll through Facebook and allow my blood to boil through various posts and comments. I’d prefer to entertain myself through the latest Netflix release than engage in anything of real depth. It takes self-and-spirit work and intention to step towards joy.  In fact, many times this year I have responded that we are choosing joy at South Street, we are fighting for it.

My Christmas Store Saturday ends in front of a screen. Both boys in bed while my wife and I catch up on the work of the week (charting for her and a hard blog-deadline for me). It’s tempting even now to disengage. To opt out of the fight for joy and settle into apathy via Netflix.

This is why I value the practice of Advent, the discipline of it. Lighting a candle, reading the Scriptures, and speaking ‘joy’ are in some respects acts of resistance.  We embolden our spirits in the fight for joy by remembering God’s promises, God’s good, and God’s glory.

I will leave you with the same strengthening Scriptures I will recite this third week of Advent. Read them aloud and join the Advent fight for joy.

ISAIAH 35:10

Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.

ISAIAH 49:13

Sing for joy, O heavens! Rejoice, O earth! Burst into song, O mountains! For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on them in their suffering.

LUKE 1:8-11

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep.Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Saviour—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!

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