By Dr. Sophia Steibel
Joy is a word we hear a lot during the Advent season. Joy is associated with the story and spirit of Christmas. We often anticipate this time of the year with great expectations. For me this word took on a new meaning about six years ago when I joined a group of ladies in Sunday School at First Baptist Church of Shelby, a class named J.O.Y. Intrigued by the acronym, I asked about it and someone said, “Jesus, Others, and You.” What a great way of defining joy in this season to be jolly.
Jesus is to be my primary focus in life and not only during the month of December. Jesus, the incarnate God, fully human and fully God, orients my life when things are good or not. He wants to be my best friend, one who is there to listen and guide or to quiet my anxieties and offer a new outlook on things. He helps me to reconsider situations that are above my control. I find Jesus in reading and meditating in the Bible, in the quiet of prayer and time alone early in the morning or late at night, and just about at any time during the day. I often practice a 5 minute retreat, especially when things overwhelm my daily tasks.
Others must be a priority in my life. I need others to carry on the God given gifts and abilities that I have, but I need others because in serving them I am following the will of God for my life. Service to others builds community. This past week, four members of the J.O.Y. Sunday School class did just that, as they traveled to be the hands and feet of Jesus to those who are in crisis due to natural disasters.
You and I also matter on the scheme of things. This time of the year can often run us down. The work that I do is intensified by grading papers and presentations of students. Although all around there is music, scents, and beauty of lights calling for a time of celebration, there is work to be done and no rest for the weary, but, I have to remind myself that, yes, this body in which my soul resides needs good rest, well slept nights, foods that nourish, and physical exercise—all necessary ingredients if I am to enjoy the season.
What is JOY for you?