Advent and Marriage: Week 3 —
 OUR JOY — A Couple’s Bible Study

Advent — preparing our hearts to celebrate the real meaning of Christmas–the coming of Christ into the world. (Read all about it here.
Each Couple’s Bible Study post leading up to Christmas is a lesson on the focus of Advent for that week. These teachings will not only help you keep your thoughts, heart, and home centered on Christ during this season, but also will apply to your marriage and family as well. Use them in Couple Connect or in your family Advent time.
The first week of Advent focused on HOPE and the second week focused on PREPARATION. This is the third week (beginning Sunday, December 14th), and the focus is JOY. If you are using an Advent wreath, this week light the candle of JOY (pink in the traditional wreath).
“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” – Luke 2:10-11

Joy in Christ’s Birth

When Jesus was born, there was much joy surrounding His coming. The birth of a child usually does bring joy. I remember well the joy in my heart when each of my kids were born. But that joy does not compare to the joy Jesus’ birth brought that night and the joy it would bring to all who accept Him as their Savior.

Matthew 2 tells of the wise men coming “from the east” to “worship Him” who had been born “king of the Jews” (2:1-2). When they finally found Jesus, “they were overjoyed” (2:10). And they “bowed down and worshiped him” (2:11). Joy brought them to their knees.

While we believe these wise men arrived and saw Jesus quite a while after His birth (some think up to two years later), Luke 2 gives the account of the shepherds “living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks” (2:8) that same night Jesus was born. We read: “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord‘” (2:10-11).

And joy fills our hearts as we experience the gift brought through this tiny baby–salvation through faith in Him–Jesus Christ the Lord. He sacrificed Himself to pay the price for our sins and open the way for us to be forgiven and have eternal life. If you have never received this gift of salvation–and the joy that goes with it–please read this. His gift to you is just waiting for you accept it.

Joy to the World
Joy in Life

JOY. This is the word the NIV* translates for the Greek word “chara.” Other Bible translations use the word “happy” or “happiness.” But there is quite a difference in the meanings of our English words “joy” and “happy.” And the original language of the New Testament uses only “chara.” We need a greater understanding of this word’s meaning.

Notice these definitions from The Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

Happy – “feeling pleasure and enjoyment because of your life, situation, etc.; pleased or glad about a particular situation, event, etc.”

Joy – “a source or cause of great happiness; something or someone that gives joy to someone; a source or cause of delight.”

Do you see the difference? Happiness is all about feeling. Joy is all about giving–being the source of joy and happiness in another.

Which one do you think best describes what God has in mind? Do you think He wants our lives to be all about us feeling pleasure or enjoyment? We certainly will feel these things at times–and it’s wonderful. And because God loves us, He most likely is glad when we are enjoying life. But can we only be happy when we feel pleasure?

The Greek word chara is referring to a state of mind and an orientation of the heart. It is a settled state of contentment, confidence, and hope. A settled state. This means there is no dependence on circumstances or feelings. The dependence is on God. And where do contentment, confidence, and hope originate? They come from God…from faith in Him and His Son, Jesus Christ. Chara…a settled state. Settled–no matter our circumstances, no matter our feelings. Settled…because of Him.

God created us to feel happiness at times when things are going well. But He wants us to have joy in all circumstances–even those that are hard to face. That kind of joy comes when we trust God is with us no matter what.

God with us–Emmanuel. God incarnate–Jesus. That’s why the angels announced His coming to the shepherds with great joy. That’s why the wise men were filled with joy when they finally found Jesus. Things were not going well for God’s people when Jesus came into the world, but when the Messiah came He brought hope. He brought contentment, confidence, and joy. And He still does today.

One of the reasons we gift gifts at Christmas is because of the greatest gift ever given–which is is offered to us. Paul tells of it in Ephesians 2:8: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” We also give gifts because of the example of the wise men, who gave their gifts to the Messiah–Christ Jesus.

God brought tidings of great joy when He gave us the gift of His Son. And with grateful hearts for the gift He has given us in Christ–the gift of salvation through His death and resurrection–what gift will we offer Him in return? Like the wise men, the joy we receive in this gift should bring us to our knees in worship. It is in giving ourselves back to Him that we find the greatest joy. Following His Word and seeking His glory will fill our hearts with joy because it brings joy to the Lord.

Our joy in life is found when we receive the precious gift of God’s Son. And once received, we share that joy with those around us.

Joy is a beautiful circle of God’s love–never-ending.

Joy in Marriage

And we can find this same joy in our marriage.

The letter Paul sent to his good friend and co-worker, Philemon, may seem like a strange place to look for teaching about joy in marriage, but it is there. Philemon is the shortest of Paul’s letters (only one chapter) and is the most personal. What it teaches about relationships is essential to a strong marriage and essential for joy.

Paul was in prison when he wrote this letter and there he met a servant of Philemon named Onesimus. He had obviously run away from his master. Paul shared the good news of Jesus with him, and Onesimus surrendered his life to Christ. In order to make his life fully right with God, Paul convinced Onesimus to return to Philemon and make things right with him. This letter is asking Philemon to forgive Onesimus and receive him back as a fellow member of the family of Christ, not as a servant (Philemon 1:15-16).

So what can we learn here that will help us find joy in our marriage?

First, we must be forgiving toward our spouse, no matter how much we’ve been wronged or hurt. This is what Paul is pleading with Philemon to do for Onesimus. We must forgive.

In Colossians 3:13, Paul writes: Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. He also tells us in Ephesians 4:32: Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Is there anything of which you would not want Christ to forgive you? Recall before you answer what Jesus taught in Matthew 6:15: If you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” 

Christ came to this world to forgive us of great sin. We, therefore, should be willing to forgive our spouses of anything.

Second, we must love as Christ loves. Philemon 1:7 says: “Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.” Paul has been made aware of the love Philemon has shown for others, and this brought him great joy and encouragement.

Christ Jesus Himself said, Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends”  (John 15:12-13). And, indeed, that is what Jesus’ coming was all about–loving us with everything He had to give–even His own life.

Do you want to have joy in your marriage? Love and forgive your spouse as Christ has loved and forgiven you. This kind of love brings great joy.

Looking back on that first Christmas we see joy all around. We see it in the story of the angels, the shepherds, the wise men, Mary. They were all filled with joy because of the gift of forgiveness and love God sent in His Son, Jesus.

What’s standing in the way of joy in your life? Do you need to ask forgiveness from your spouse? From God? Are you withholding forgiveness from your spouse? Are you loving in the way that Christ Jesus loves you?

Let’s bring joy to all those around us as we offer the gifts of love and forgiveness, just as we have received them from our Savior. And may His joy forever bring us to our knees in worship before Him. For He is Christ the Lord–our Joy.

Enhancing the Advent Celebration

Here are some suggested Scriptures for every day this week…

Sunday – Matthew 2:7-8
Monday – Matthew 2:9
Tuesday – Matthew 2:10-11
Wednesday – Matthew 2:12-15
Thursday – Galatians 4:4-5
Friday – Ephesians 2:8-9
Saturday – 1 John 4:7-16

“Joy to the World”

This beautiful hymn is the most published Christmas carol in North America. It was written by Isaac Watts in 1719, a London pastor who had to retire early due to health reasons. He loved and wrote poetry from an early age and began writing hymns. He especially loved turning Psalms into hymns with common language of his day. “Joy to the World” is based on Psalm 98. Here are the beautiful words of both…

Psalm 98

“Sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things;
his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.
The LORD has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations.
He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to the house of Israel;
all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music;
make music to the LORD with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing,
with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn–shout for joy before the LORD, the King.
Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.
Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy;
let them sing before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity.”

Joy to the World

Joy to the World, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.
Joy to the World, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.
He rules the World with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, and wonders, of His love.

Enjoy this wonderful music video of a new rendition of this song…

from tommeeprofitt on YouTube.

May God bless you in all His wonderful ways,

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Header photo by mike.bendetti via flickr (CC BY-2.0), text added
Candle image from PublicDomainPictures via pixabay (CC0), text added
Larry Libby quote from Christmas: On This Holy Night (Thomas Nelson, 2011).


For other posts in this Advent series, click here…
Introduction – A Beautiful Celebration
Week 1 – Our Hope
Week 2 – Our Preparation
Week 4 – Our Peace
Week 5 – Our Light Has Come

About David Penley

A devoted husband and father, former pastor and seminary professor, who longs to grow closer to the likeness of Christ each day and share God's love and truth with everyone.