FreerangeFriday: OPEN the Gift of JOY

by Lilly Lewin
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By Lilly Lewin

We are approaching the Third Week of Advent! How time is flying this year compared to last! I’m still in the midst of decorating and our tree is still in a box waiting to be put up and decorated. Last year we purchased our first “non real” tree and since we celebrate the Season of Christmas, also known as the 12 Days of Christmas, I’m not feeling too far behind. Just a little. Thanks to the Season of Christmas, we keep the celebration going and the tree up through Epiphany on January 6th. As Christine said in our Facebook live on Wednesday, we get this time “all to ourselves” as the rest of the world gets on with life. The Church calendar allows us to slow down and experience the wonder of the birth for twelve days, not just one!

So in week three of traditional Advent, the wreath often has a pink candle and this is the candle of JOY. This Sunday is also known as Gaudete Sunday from the Latin word Rejoice! Learn more HERE and watch a great video meditation.

How do we open the GIFT of JOY this week and in the days ahead? Maybe you aren’t feeling the JOY this year. Maybe you’re more tired or more frustrated by the pandemic than even in 2020. I sure feel that!

WHAT ARE THE THINGS BRINGING YOU JOY RIGHT NOW? Take time to write them down. Things like …A call from a friend, a beautiful day, fresh snowfall, Christmas lights…they don’t have to be big things! Things that make you smile.

What can you do to add more JOY into your life during these days of Advent? Maybe you need to consider the things that are sucking the JOY and WONDER out of us. Things like:
Fear of Failure
Anxiety & worry
Too much social media
The pandemic
Too much work
What is sucking the JOY and WONDER out of you right now?
What is one thing you could do to stop the wonder killers this week? Plan time for JOY!

The Lectionary for Sunday skips ahead to adult John the Baptist preparing the way for the ministry of Jesus in Luke 3. At thinplaceNASHVILLE we continued on in Luke 1 OPENING THE GIFT of JOY that John’s parents received when their long-awaited child was born.

Nacimiento de San Juan Bautista Artemisia Gentileschi 1

The Birth of Saint John the Baptist, by Artemisia Gentileschi,


LUKE 1: 57-80 The MESSAGE Birth of John the Baptist
57-58 When Elizabeth was full-term in her pregnancy, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives, seeing that God had overwhelmed her with mercy, celebrated with her.
59-60 On the eighth day, they came to circumcise the child and were calling him Zachariah after his father. But his mother intervened: “No. He is to be called John.”
61-62 “But,” they said, “no one in your family is named that.” They used sign language to ask Zachariah what he wanted him named.
63-64 Asking for a tablet, Zachariah wrote, “His name is to be John.” That took everyone by surprise. Surprise followed surprise—Zachariah’s mouth was now open, his tongue loose, and he was talking, praising God!
65-66 A deep, reverential fear settled over the neighborhood, and in all that Judean hill country people talked about nothing else. Everyone who heard about it took it to heart, wondering, “What will become of this child? Clearly, God has his hand in this.”
67-79 Then Zachariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied,
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel;
    he came and set his people free.
He set the power of salvation in the center of our lives,
    and in the very house of David his servant,
Just as he promised long ago
 through the preaching of his holy prophets:
Deliverance from our enemies
    and every hateful hand;
Mercy to our fathers,
 as he remembers to do what he said he’d do,
What he swore to our father Abraham—
 a clean rescue from the enemy camp,
 So we can worship him without a care in the world,
 made holy before him as long as we live.
And you, my child, “Prophet of the Highest,”
  will go ahead of the Master to prepare his ways,
 Present the offer of salvation to his people,
 the forgiveness of their sins.
 Through the heartfelt mercies of our God,
 God’s Sunrise will break in upon us,
 Shining on those in the darkness,
  those sitting in the shadow of death,
 Then showing us the way, one foot at a time,
 down the path of peace.
80 The child grew up, healthy and spirited. He lived out in the desert until the day he made his prophetic debut in Israel.


Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

What do you notice that you haven’t noticed before?

What questions come up?

What do you notice about JOY?

FRESCO JOHN the baptisttornabuoni geb johannes grt


THE GIFT OF WAITING…Zechariah had to wait for 9 months to have a voice again. Elizabeth had to wait for 9 months to have a long time prayer fulfilled. The Children of Israel had waited for 400 years for the sign of a prophet. What do you notice about waiting? Why is it so hard to wait? What have you been waiting on for a long time? Talk to Jesus about where you are with waiting on this thing or these things.

Zechariah and Elizabeth WAITED on JOY and finally got to open up the gift!


HOMEWORK this week:

“Through the heartfelt mercies of our God, God’s Sunrise will break in upon us,

Shining on those in the darkness,
those sitting in the shadow of death,

Then showing us the way, one foot at a time, down the path of peace. LUKE 1: 79

TAKE time to watch the SUNRISE and consider how God is breaking into your life. TALK with God about how you need God to show you the way into the NEW YEAR.

How can you be a person of PEACE in the days ahead?


Lord God,
Calm us as we wait for the Gift of Jesus.
Cleanse us to prepare the way for his arrival. Help us to slow down and prepare our hearts. Help us to wait and take time to be with you. Teach us to contemplate the wonder of God with us.
Teach us to know the presence of your Spirit. Teach us to bear the life of Jesus and live out his Kingdom.
Today and Always. AMEN

(adapted from Ray Simpson of Lindesfarne)

More about the ART:

Main photo Sunrise over the Vineyard Path in St.Helena CA by Lilly Lewin

The Birth of Saint John the Baptist, by Artemisia Gentileschi, 1635 

Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist: Nacimiento de San Juan Bautista (Birth of Saint John the Baptist), Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, circa 1655,

Fresco of the Birth of John by
Domenico Ghirlandaio

 ©lillylewin and

AND If you’d like a PDF of our thinplaceNASHVILLE devotion on this, email me at

Free Download Advent

Breath prayers, scripture readings, walking meditations, creative and contemplative activities, and unstructured time for quiet reflection help us rekindle the wonder of Advent. Enjoy the wonderful opportunity for inner reflection and renewing silence that this free downloadable Advent retreat invites us into as the season of prayerful expectation unfolds.

This retreat is best done with a group—so gather with friends or family, or a church small group.

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