The Bookends of Faith


INTRODUCTION: The life of Jesus is literally bookended by joy. The stories surrounding his birth are filled with songs of rejoicing. Magi, shepherds, angels, Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, Zechariah, and John the Baptist follow, sing, and leap with joy. Then, the gospels end with feet running with joy, unexpected meals, and spontaneous worship as the news of Jesus’ resurrection spreads. Look a little deeper into these stories, though, and we encounter a lot of NOT joy: sadness, fear, doubt, and grief. How can joy still shine through when babies are murdered, a family needs to flee for their lives, hopes die, and injustice seems to have triumphed?

Joy shines because it is a RADICAL response to life in all of its messiness and even its tragedy. Joy never rejects sadness, fear, doubt, or grief. It isn’t rooted in having everything go well in our lives. That’s happiness. Happiness is a good thing, but quite different from joy. Joy is a response that sees beyond the not good, so that it can recognize the impossible goodness of God and celebrate with quiet trust.

In the next six weeks, we will discover more about joy and hopefully grow more joy in our lives. We will define joy (as best we can), and then reflect on joy and Jesus, joy and us, cultivating joy, and finally, ask How do we rejoice always? This is not a crash course on how to be more joyful. Joy is more about discovering than how-to learning. That being said, expect to find more joy as we learn how to discover it.


After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he[a] lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”  

Matthew 28:1-10


  • Reflect on this week’s scripture. Are there any words or ideas that especially resonate with you or challenge you?
  • Our prayer is week is Psalm 33:20-22. Pray it daily this week as a reminder that joy is composed of trust filled waiting, the recognition of God’s help and protection, and God’s faithful love.
  • How do you define joy? Are you comfortable with joy? Indifferent? Mistrustful? When in your life have you experienced joy? Have you ever experienced joy in the midst of great tragedy?

  • Pay attention to your highs and lows this week. Perhaps at the end of each day, ask yourself: what was life giving today? What was life depleting?
  • It’s helpful to have an “intention” that helps us keep our focus when we want to explore or cultivate something in our lives. Your intention is ultimately the gift you would like to receive from God during this time. A deeper understanding of joy, consistency in prayer, time for yourself could all be intentions. What might be your intention for the next six weeks?


Our soul is waiting for the LORD,

Our God, our help and our shield.

In you do our hearts find joy;

We trust in your holy name.

May your faithful love be upon us,

As we hope in you, O LORD.