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Advent Devotional Guide Week 4

Updated: Dec 23, 2019

19 Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. 21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. 23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

-John 16:19-24


Joy is something everyone desires and is searching for. People may define joy differently, but everyone knows joy when they are experiencing it. The joy at scoring the winning goal or getting an A on a paper you worked really hard on. The joy at having a fun evening with great friends or diving into a good book that you’ve been wanting to read. The joy of getting a promotion at work or receiving the perfect Christmas gift. The joy of delighting in an exquisite meal or hearing “I love you” from someone you really care about. We are all looking to experience that happy feeling when we have a good desire fulfilled. And God’s common grace is extended to all of us in that many things in life bring us joy.

But joy can also feel very elusive. While we all want joy all of the time, we especially desire it when times are hard. When we are experiencing difficulty and sorrow in this fallen world all we want is for those experiences to be replaced by joy. But life does not always cooperate. The undesirable feelings of despair can become familiar to us and joy can feel illusory like in a dream. It is in these moments that we often cry out to God, for we know that only He can change our circumstances. Thankfully, we serve a God who is in the habit of turning our sorrow in this world into joy.

In our passage in John 16 Jesus is speaking with His disciples about how they will experience great sorrow when He is killed on a Roman cross. They will “weep and lament, but the world will rejoice” because they will believe that they have finally extinguished the nuisance that is Jesus. But Jesus’ light cannot be put out that easily. While the disciple’s grief will be severe, Jesus also promises that their sorrow will only be temporary and will turn to great joy when they see Him after His resurrection. Jesus’ promise of impending sorrow is superseded by the guarantee of improbable joy.

This is not the first time God had prophesied distress and yet declared future overshadowing delight. Hundreds of years before this God’s own people experienced great distress (Is. 8:22) as God’s judgment was poured out on them for their sin and unfaithfulness in the form of being conquered by the nations of Assyria and Babylon. This judgment would bring great suffering and sorrow. But God also promised that their sorrow would give way to rejoicing when God’s Messiah would come to save God’s people and God’s Kingdom would come to the earth. This is sometimes depicted in the Old Testament as the pain a woman experiences in childbirth, which gives way to the joy she feels that her child has been brought into the world (Is. 26:16-21). This is the same imagery Jesus uses for the sorrow-turned-to-joy that His disciples will experience with His death and resurrection (Jn. 16:21). It is also what Mary experienced in childbirth as she brought Jesus into this world (Matt. 1:18-25; Lk. 2:1-7). Mary’s pain and sorrow were the result of sin in this world (Gen. 3:16), but the joy Christ’s birth brought extended even beyond the joy of His mother holding her newborn son to the joy that this Son’s atoning work on the cross would bring to all people as He triumphed over sin.

God’s people experienced sorrow in judgment which turned to joy when Jesus the Messiah came to the earth. Mary’s suffering in childbirth turned to joy when Jesus was born. The disciple’s distress at Jesus’ death was turned to joy at His resurrection. Our pain and sorrow over the effects of sin are turned to joy when we accept Christ in faith. God continually uses Jesus to take our sorrows and turn them into great joy.

And not only do we experience joy in Christ, we experience fullness of joy (Jn. 16:24) that nothing in this world can take away (Jn. 16:22). Jesus’ resurrection from the dead ushers in the blessings of God’s Kingdom that cannot be triumphed over, even though we won’t experience the fullness of these blessings until Jesus returns. This means that the sorrow we feel because of the darkness in this fallen world is no match for the eternal joy that is ours because of the Light of Christ. This should provide comfort and hope as we journey on in this life delighting in the good things God gives us, and lamenting the bad things while trusting in Jesus and still experiencing joy.

Jesus goes on to say to His disciples in John 16:33, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Maybe this Christmas you need to trust in Jesus and “take heart.” Your trials will not be forever and you can have overflowing joy in Christ now because of Jesus’ overcoming work at the cross. This does not change based on our circumstances. Even the best things in this world pale in comparison to the perfect joy that only Jesus brings. And now that we are in Christ, we can be confident that when we ask for things in prayer in the name of Jesus, those prayers that are in accord with all that Jesus’ name stands for will be answered (Jn. 16:23-24). This also brings joy. My hope and prayer is that you will abound in fullness of joy always as you daily look to Jesus!

Reflection Questions

1) What things are you looking to for joy?

2) How is the joy that Jesus brings us different than the joys the world offers?

3) Reflect on ways you have experienced God turn sorrow to joy in your life. How do you find yourself responding? Take your thoughts and feelings to Jesus in prayer.

4) How can you still find joy in Christ in the midst of sorrow?

5) How can you pursue a greater experience in your own life of the fullness of joy Jesus offers?


What sorrows are you currently experiencing that are trying to steal your joy in Christ? Take some time to write them down and genuinely lament the consequences of sin in this world.

How does knowing Jesus bring fullness of joy that surpasses the sorrow we feel from sin? Take some time to reflect on all that you have in Christ that brings joy. Spend some time responding in thankfulness and worship.

Who in your life can you pursue to tell them about the joy that Jesus brings? Take intentional steps to pray for them and pursue them with the gospel.


Lord, we recognize that the sorrows of this world and the good gifts you give us have the tendency to rob us of finding fullness of joy in Christ alone. We confess that we are often satisfied with lesser joys and don’t pursue you when we are in despair. But because you have come to us in our hour of greatest need, we have joy unspeakable! Your death and resurrection secure for us fullness of joy that can never be taken away. By your grace help us to daily come to you as our sole source of joy until we experience the unimaginable joy of seeing you face to face.


O Come, O Come Emmanuel

O come, O come, Emmanuel

And ransom captive Israel

That mourns in lonely exile here

Until the Son of God appear

Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, oh Israel

O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer

Our spirits by Thine advent here

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night

And death’s dark shadows put to flight

Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, oh Israel

Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, oh Israel

O come, desire of nations bind

In one the hearts of all mankind

Bid thou our sad divisions cease

And be Thyself our King of Peace

Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, oh Israel

Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, oh Israel

Hark the Herald Angels Sing

Hark! The herald angels sing,

“Glory to the new-born king!

Peace on earth, and mercy mild,

God and sinners reconciled.”

Joyful, all ye nations, rise,

Join the the triumph of the skies;

With the angelic host proclaim,

“Christ is born in Bethlehem.”

Hark! The herald angels sing,

“Glory to the new-born King!”

Christ, by highest heaven adored:

Christ, the everlasting Lord;

Late in time behold him come,

Offspring of the favored one.

Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see;

Hail, the incarnate Deity:

Pleased, as man, with men to dwell,

Jesus, our Emmanuel!

Hark! The herald angels sing,

“Glory to the new-born King!”

Hail! The heaven-born

Prince of peace!

Hail! The Son of Righteousness!

Light and life to all he brings,

Risen with healing in his wings

Mild he lays his glory by,

Born that man no more may die:

Born to raise the son of earth

Born to give them second birth.

Hark! The herald angels sing,

“Glory to the new-born King!”

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