“Dark times are when we most need someone to remind us of God’s presence. Tidings of comfort and joy come from those willing to enter into our pain with healing and hopeful words. Not platitudes or explanations or speculations about “why” something has happened. Just reminders that God is “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3) and that “weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5b). Our prayer is that these devotionals will bring both comfort and joy to your heart this Christmas season.”
– Dr. Mark Young, president of Denver Seminary
The Advent season is a time where many deeply feel the paradox of deep gladness and deep sadness. With that in mind, Denver Seminary’s annual Advent devotional this year is Comfort & Joy. With twenty-five messages on the theme of comfort and joy from Denver Seminary faculty, staff, students, alumni, and board members, we pray that this devotional will bring you into God’s presence and help you experience His abundant comfort and joy this holiday season. This devotional will guide readers from December 1 to Christmas Day, and is available both online and in hard copy.
We hope you enjoy this gift from Denver Seminary and that it is a blessing to your Advent season!
Each year, Denver Seminary creates a devotional for the Advent season written by faculty, staff, students, alumni, and board members for our community. As not every devotional submitted can fit in the physical book, here are a few additional devotions that we wanted to share.
Filled with Joy
“Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”
Above are the words of Paul and Barnabas, two missionaries mistaken for gods by many in their Lycaonian-speaking audience. After listening to Paul, a man who had been lame for his whole life leapt to his feet and walked for the first time! He was, no doubt, filled with joy, as were all the locals. The problem: no one seemed to know who to thank for the joy. The priest of Zeus wanted to honor the missionaries with sacrifices. He had missed the important distinction between Paul’s speech and the lame man’s “faith to be healed” (9), the latter of which was superior, as it was—as all faith is—a gift from God.
Paul and Barnabas rushed the worshiping crowd in Lystra with an impromptu speech, not to silence the crowd or lower their arms, but to redirect their voices and hands toward the living and active God—the true joy-giver, the rain-maker, the crop-grower, the plate-filler, and the creator of heaven and earth (v. 14–17).
As Christian leaders, we know some audiences are too easily swayed. “Even with [Paul’s and Barnabas’] words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them” (v. 18.) How tempting it must be for narcissistic preachers to cater to complimentary congregations. How difficult it must be for depressed leaders to resist dopamine so efficiently transmitted via hero-worship. Each would do well to remember what immediately followed the adulation in Lystra—out-of-town Jews winning over the crowd to the degree Paul was stoned nearly to death (v. 19). The godly never entrust their fate to the fickle.
In Lystra, Paul and Barnabas were not gods. Rather, they were God’s messengers of “good news” (v. 15) to a people scholars would later describe as “rustic.” Though no gods, the missionaries were not unlike angels, such as the one who had spoken to rustic shepherds during the first Advent: “But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.’” (Luke 2:10)
God has not left himself without testimony. He fills our hearts with joy. He is who we thank every Advent.
Student, Master of Divinity (Leadership)
The God of Comfort, Peace, and Joy
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
As we spiritually prepare and wait for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ in this season, we are reminded of the church He has called us to be. Not only does He desire for us to be without spot, blemish, or wrinkle, He desires that we would be filled with peace while resting in His comfort and joy. The world around us is filled with fear, chaos, striving, and unrest, yet we are reminded to be still, set apart, holy, and pure.
How are we able to do that? We are best able to be and to do what Christ has commanded when our minds remain focused on His promises and His word. His Word is not only our source, but it is our resource, our guide, our motivation, and the shield that protects us from the effects of the world in which we live. While it is true that the world attempts to inoculate us with its doctrines, standards, and cultural nuances, the Word of God reminds us that we can come to Him with prayer, petition, and thanksgiving when trouble and anxious thoughts try to consume us.
Moreover, He promises that His peace will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, giving us the ability to count every trial, every situation, and every trouble we face as pure joy. Being in the world but not of the world places us in the position to represent the joy of Christ through the wellness, wholeness, and completeness of His love. In other words, there is no need to worry, fear, or allow any situation to overtake our hearts and minds because we are in the Lord Jesus. We are transformed by the Spirit into a new creation with the rights and privileges thereof. Our new relationship promises to comfort our fears, provide us with joy, and cover us with peace as we present requests, dilemmas, and issues to our God with measures of thanksgiving and gratitude.
Our thanksgiving to God, even in uncertainty, helps us to put problems into proper alignment. When we measure everything against the light of His Word, we realize that all things work out for the better and for our good. In this way, we experience the amazing and fulfilling presence of the God of all comfort and peace because He is our joy.
Juanetta T. Swann, MDiv
Comfort for a Persecuted Church
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.”
2 Corinthians 1:3-7
In these verses, Paul addresses the Corinthian saints who were facing persecution in various forms: social ostracism, cultural rejection, political disenfranchisement, physical persecution, and even martyrdom.
Paul’s first order of business was to render praise to God, the Father. Our first order of business during this Advent season is to praise the Creator and the Source of our existence. Paul then focuses on our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus was called Son of Joseph in His hometown. The phrase, “Lord Jesus Christ,” was not Jesus’ common name, although “Lord” and “Christ” are titles rightly ascribed to Him.
The song Silent Night gets it right. We sing “Jesus, Lord at thy birth.” When Jesus proclaimed to religious leaders, “Before Abraham was, I am,” they picked up stones to kill him. Why? To them, Jesus had taken for himself the title of “Lord.”
So, in this season of Advent, we acknowledge Jesus as Lord, as God revealed in flesh, and as Emmanuel, God With Us.
God promised Israel a King, Messiah, Christ. That king would reign forever. Kings administer justice, establish order, keep the peace, and promote the cause of the needy. During this season of Advent, we look forward to the return King Jesus who will fully execute His duties as King of Kings.
Being in a relationship with God does not make us immune from the enemies of the cross. Bad things do happen to Christians. Paul directs the persecuted Church to God, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort. In the context of persecution, God is compassionate to the believer and knows the sufferings of His saints. We pray that God intervenes on their behalf.
God comforts the saints in tribulation for a purpose. Our pain and suffering qualify us to comfort others. When we are persecuted for the sake of Christ, we share in His passions, and we receive abounding comfort. God’s comfort produces patient endurance and gives us hope in Him who conquered death.
F. Lee Maes
Member, Board of Trustees
A Journey of Joy
“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”
Take a moment to reflect upon the most recent time that you walked out of your home or stepped out of your car. Did you “go out in joy?” Sometimes we go out in frustration or anxiety or fear rather than joy. In contrast to some of our day-to-day experiences, it is possible for believers to live lives that are characterized by joy. Isaiah 55 helps us to understand how our life can become a journey of joy.
Joy results from understanding that the one essential of life—salvation through Jesus Christ—was provided freely by the LORD. This is illustrated by the free gifts of water, wine, milk, and bread in the early verses of Isaiah 55.
Joy results from calling upon the LORD for pardon. We each carry a variety of burdens in this life, the greatest of which are our sins. Reflecting upon the present reality of these burdens can lead to discouragement, despondency, or discontent; each of which robs us of joy. When we cast our burdens upon the Lord, we can once again experience joy.
Joy results from humility. God reminds us that His ways and thoughts are higher than our ways and thoughts. Accepting this requires humility. A posture of humility towards God is relatively easy . A posture of humility with our spouse or children or employer may not be as easy, but is essential if we are to have joy.
Joy results from the supernatural work of God’s Word in one’s life. The Word of God always accomplishes what God intends for it to accomplish. For example, God promises that knowing Jesus results in “inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8), and knowledge of Jesus comes through the Word. Also, it is the Word of God, applied by the Spirit of God, that results in a believer expressing the fruits of the Spirit, one of which is joy.
Joy is an essential part of the journey of the life of the believer. The Christian life is a journey where we are going out in joy (filled by the Spirit of God) and being led in peace (following the example of the Son of God) to accurately represent the Father to the whole of creation.
Shawn Trueman, MA, MM
PhD Student in Counselor Education and Supervision; Director of Educational Technology
Reasons for Joy
“At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.’”
When we think of Jesus, what do we see? Among the images of the Suffering Servant on the cross and the scars of the triumphant Resurrected One, do we also see Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit? One who delights in seeing the mission of God exercised, not by the rich and powerful, but by the average, ordinary person?
In Luke 10, Jesus sends seventy-two people “to every town and place where he was about to go” (10:1), “like lambs among wolves” (10:3). And yet, these seventy-two return “with joy” at the power they have exercised, in the name of Jesus, to fulfill the work Jesus sent them to accomplish (10:17).
After their successful mission, Jesus experiences the joyful return of the seventy-two. Leaders know the joy of seeing their team competently fulfilling the mission. However, modeling good leadership, Jesus points beyond the immediate success to anchor their joy to something even deeper: “rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (10:20).
Jesus then prays, revealing the theological truths that are the reason for joy. We will focus on three.
First, the Father is “Lord of heaven and earth.” This theological truth—that our God, our Father, is Lord of heaven and earth—is a source of joy. Our names cannot be written in heaven without our Father God being Lord.
Second, notice that Jesus is “full of joy through the Holy Spirit” and the Father is pleased. This reveals that the Trinity is pleased and full of joy.
Third, the source of the Father’s pleasure is that the work of Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit, offers that all people—even little children—can understand, receive, and participate in God’s mission. This reminds us that the Lord desires “everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9) and that followers of Jesus are now given the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:11-21).
These three truths become sources of joy for us as we dwell on them. If we want to experience more joy, we cannot change an emotion by focusing on the emotion itself. Instead, we can cultivate emotion by focusing on the belief behind the emotion. If we desire joy, think about that which brings us joy. May we see Jesus as crucified, risen, and full of joy, and may that vision of Jesus motivate us to joyfully fulfill the work he has given us until his return.
Tim Koller, PhD
Associate Dean of Innovation and Educational Systems, Director of Leadership Program, Assistant Professor of Leadership
I Will Rise
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’”
The words to a song from her favorite Christian artist, Chris Tomlin, rose in sweet melody from the lips of our six-year-old daughter. “I will rise when He calls my name. No more sorrow, no more pain. I will rise on eagles’ wings, before my God fall on my knees, and rise.” As she struggled to manage even the basic activities of life with perseverance and grace, Annie said, “Mommy, if I go to heaven, I won’t have any more pain; my cancer will be gone.” I knelt to embrace her in the middle of the bathroom floor, tears streaming down our faces, “That’s right, sweetheart, you won’t be in pain anymore.”
Isn’t this the cry of our hearts—to see an end to suffering and death? “Creation groans,” Scripture tells us, and we long for an end to disease, hatred, fear, and all that is evil. The physical, spiritual, and emotional suffering plaguing God’s beautiful world is not the end of the story. We long for life as it was meant to be. We, His good creation, await His Advent.
For centuries, the people of God have found an anchor in God’s promises; He has been faithful. The Jews awaited the Advent of their Messiah, Christ Jesus—and He came. God’s people wait today for His second Advent, believing He will come again, as He promised. Anticipation of God’s redemption fills us with hope when circumstances around us appear grim. The Lord’s presence with us amid our sufferings and the promise of living forever in a perfectly restored world brings comfort and joy.
The Jews anticipated a Savior who would “swallow up death forever” and “wipe away the tears from all faces” (Isaiah 25:8). Those that recognized Jesus as their Messiah rejoiced greatly at His birth. As God’s people, we live in anticipation of His return for eternity. Christ will come to dwell among us, and when we are with Him and He with us, there will be “no more sorrow, no more pain,” for He will have conquered death and restored His beautiful creation to its original glory and goodness.
Picture your righteous, loving Father declaring from His throne, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people.” Imagine what it will be like when God proclaims, “The old order of things has passed away.”
Administrative Assistant to the VP of Advancement and Grants and Foundations Specialist