The Hamm family lights the candle of Joy.

“From the Hart” Devotional for Dec. 21, 2023

“Joy in the Little Things”
by Julie Hart, Director of Connectional Ministries

We light the Candle of Joy
confident that the light shines
even in places where deep shadows touch our lives.
When you come to us, Most Holy God,
may we know you,
through the grace of Jesus the Christ.

This week, the candle of JOY was lit on the Advent wreath. The Hamm family lit the candle and read during the 9:30 service. The words that they read were personal for them this year because they have been through a lot as a family. There has been despair and deep shadows for them. And yet, there has been joy! I cannot think of a more perfect family to light the candle of joy.

I was able to sit down with the Hamm family in the podcast studio last week and they shared their thoughts about Joy. It’s the first time I have interviewed a family with littles, so I wasn’t quite sure how it would go. The wisdom that came out of the mouths of babes was pretty remarkable. Max Jr. talked about appreciating the little things in life saying “I think that one of the reasons why people who go through bad things are the most joyful people is because people who don’t go through bad things don’t think of the tiny things — because they go through good things all the time. But people who go through bad things and have to go through things like that think of the small things because they basically aren’t being greedy.”

MIC DROP! Class dismissed! Hold your calls; we have a winner!
He gets it! This 5th-grade boy gets the connection between despair and joy that takes many adults a lifetime to understand. Those of us who have learned this lesson probably didn’t learn it from a book, a podcast, or a class. We learned it by going through it. We learned it in the depth of the muck and the mire that life can sometimes bring.

It was the week of Thanksgiving in 2004. My sons were 4 and 8 years old. I was living my best life going to school to be a 3rd grade teacher with a long-term sub job all lined up. I was decorating the house for the holidays and making plans for family who were coming into town. The turkey was already defrosting in the fridge. It was going to be a great holiday season! My husband headed off to work one night and before his shift had ended, our marriage as I knew it had also ended. There was nothing that could have prepared me for what I was going to find that night. Nothing.

Needless to say, even though it was a sleepless night for me, the sun came up the next morning. My kids came bounding down the stairs, as usual, asking where daddy was — a question that was hard to answer without breaking down. Many questions followed over the next days, weeks, months, and years that were difficult to answer. Divorce (even a good divorce) is a painful thing to go through. When our dreams die in the darkness, it is hard to believe that the light will ever shine again. And yet, it does. The light always shines again.

For me, the little glimmers of light were simple things like a picture one of my kids had drawn, a song on the radio that spoke to my heart, or a friend calling to check on me. As time went on, I was able to pull the curtain open a little more each day to let the blessings of the world come shining in through the window that I had been hiding behind.

Thanksgiving came, Christmas came, and New Year’s came. None of them came the way I had planned for them to come, but they came just the same and we got through them.

The holidays are not always a joyful time for everyone. I get that. But, I do believe that we can still have joy in our hearts — the kind of joy that comes from knowing and believing that God is with us on the sunny days when things are going as they ought, and on the cloudy days when they are not.

This week, I have no questions for you.
Instead, I offer you this prayer:
Lord God,
You know our hearts, you feel our hurts, and you see the dark corners that threaten our happiness. Help us to allow the light of joy to shine into our lives and pour out of our hearts as a witness to you this Christmas. We thank you for the smallest blessings that come amidst our biggest struggles. For we know that they come from you. Amen.