The season of Advent is drawing to a close. I’ve never fully appreciated Advent like I have this year. At the church I attend, our advent series has been entitled Waiting… with ever week a different focus.

We’ve talked about waiting in the dark, waiting in exile, waiting for a heart of flesh, and this past Sunday I preached on waiting for joy. Christmas is such a busy season with this feverish desire to rush towards December 25, that we often loose sight of our need to slow down and contemplate.

Our series has been greatly helped by Edd, who attends our church. Edd is a painter and each week has worked to provide a beautiful portrait of the coming of Christ. The painting started very dark, as you might imagine. With each passing week the star at the center of the painting has grown brighter, illuminating the countryside, and small town beneath it.

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Edd has helped us to grasp the journey towards Christ’s birth by illustrating it through this painting. The painting, with the advent series, has helped me stir in the wonder of the birth of Jesus, and it has helped me appreciate the wait for the savior. I am grateful to Edd for ministering to me during Advent.

Advent has also reminded me of the need to slow down and appreciate God’s work today. This past Sunday, as I spoke on waiting for joy, I recounted a story that brought me joy last week.

Almost two weeks ago, a New City Afterschool student named Theip won a plastic candy cane full of hershey kisses. At the end of the night, that candy cane was knocked out of his hand, and multiple kids helped themselves to Theip’s candy. While we, as leaders, dealt with it, another student named Dylan took matters into his own hands. He tried to get Theip’s candy back, and threatened kids to make it happen. I had to walk Dylan home to make sure he didn’t carry out any of those threats.

The next week, Dylan showed up looking for Theip. He told Alaina that he had a gift for Theip, and in his hand was a plastic candy cane full of hershey kisses. Theip wasn’t there, so Dylan took the candy cane home. The next day, Dylan returned, with the candy cane, again looking for Theip. Theip was in my office on lock down because he was not in a good mood. Dylan walked in, handed him the candy, and proceeded to show him love and kindness through his words of encouragement. The rest of the evening, Dylan helped other students, and even helped run our science club.

If you knew the background of these two students, you’d likely be in awe right now.

What I see in this story is the joy of Jesus working in the lives of two students. Jesus, the savior we celebrate at Christmas, has begun to do a good work in Dylan, and hopefully Theip, and we rejoice in that good work.

Jesus has come into the world to make life transformation possible.

My hope and prayer for you, this holiday season, is that you are able to slow down, and experience the joy of knowing Jesus and his love for you. I hope that you can look around and see the good work he is doing in this world. And I hope that you will prayerfully wait with all believers for the day he will return and fill us with his never ending joy.