This past week at Element Church we continued our Christmas sermon series called “My Advent: What does it mean for me?” In this series we are going back to our Christian roots, lighting a candle in the Advent wreath each week and talking about what Advent truly means for me. But we don’t want to leave the sermon in the auditorium each week, we want to help you bring it home with you and apply it to your everyday lives. So each week, we have created a video devotional that will help apply the message from the weekend to your life with some practical next steps. Below you’ll find a short, 6 minute video that you can watch as a family, small group or individual. You’ll also find a manuscript, that if you want to lead your family or group through this devotional on your own without the video you can do that as well.
I know it’s Christmas and we’re supposed to be all holly and jolly but I just couldn’t get this story off my mind. Last week, I mentioned voice of the martyrs and talked about how we can serve those who are in prison for believing in Jesus. This week at Element we talked about joy. Happiness is rooted in my circumstances but joy can be rooted in my heart. Happiness is temporary, joy can be eternal.
So how do you communicate true joy? I don’t think true joy can be communicated from a place of plenty. I think true joy can only be displayed from a place of lack. A place where you would least expect. A place like a prison cell in China.
(Read the full story from Voice of The Martyrs HERE.) Cheng Jie, a young mother and pastor’s wife, never thought she’d be arrested, but that is exactly what happened in June of 2014. Her husband was a pastor in China where religious control is common. Chinese authorities charged the school where Cheng Jie worked, arrested her for teaching religious curriculum and sentenced her to jail.
There in jail, Cheng Jie shared a 15 foot by 15-foot prison cell that had one toilet for multiple women in the cell to share. She was in the same cell with drug dealers and murderers. The women were required to work 12-hour work days and were fed very little. But pretty soon, Cheng learned she had the great opportunity to minister to the other women, so she began to love them.
Her husband was allowed to visit once a month, but her kids who were 1 and 3 at the time, were not allowed to come. She read her Bible faithfully, and taught the word and worship songs to other cellmates. Her faithfulness made her stand out to prison authorities, so much so that she was trusted to manage the cells were the she and the women were held.
In February of 2016, Cheng was released from jail, 2 years after her arrest. Her sons are now 3 and 5 years old. When asked about her time in prison, Cheng Jie said, “Even though I was in prison, I felt like I am happy because I have the joy from God.”
I don’t know where this Christmas season finds you, but I do know this. The same joy that was rooted in Cheng Jie’s heart, can be rooted in ours as well.
Philippians 4:4 says this “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again — Rejoice!
Our joy is not found in what happens to us, our joy is found in what God has done for us…given us Jesus, Advent of the Messiah. Take a moment this week and share Philippians 4:4 on social media and hashtag it with #MyAdvent and let’s let other people know that our joy is rooted in Christ this Christmas season.