Sweet Hymns of Joy {The Grove: Joy}

I know what it is to struggle for joy in the Christmas season.

I know what it is to feel the dissonance between pain in my own heart and the entire world seeming to be laughing in joy.

It was the week before Thanksgiving, 2012, when my mom drew her last breath. We hadn’t seen it coming, there was no warning, just a new stunned reality. We buried her the day before Thanksgiving and began the most difficult Christmas season of our lives.

I know what it is to be dealing with pain when everyone else is celebrating. I learned in that season of my life that if you’re there – if you’re hurting when you’re supposed to be filled with joy – oh, my dear. You are not alone. There are so many of us.

We went to the Christmas Eve service at our church that year, my sister and my Dad and I. We choked on our tears through most of the service, and bit our lips to hold back the bitter questions we had. The choir sang all of the songs we knew, the songs I used to look up and see my grandmother singing, the songs my mom’s strong alto voice used to support. It seemed too silent without them. Our family had become much too small.

And then came the verse, one of my favorites, with a completely new meaning in my heart that year:

“Sweet hymns of joy, in grateful chorus raise we –

Let all within us praise His holy name…”

Hymns of joy. Yes, they were still there. Sweet hymns of joy, offered from a place of brokenness but with a grateful heart. We mustered up as much gratitude as we could, sitting there in the sixth row. I sang these lines as loud as I could, though my voice was cracking. I determined that these lines would be my anthem that Christmas.

Joy in the midst of darkness is part of what is promised to us as followers of Christ. When our world is turned upside down – or maybe when that same disappointment keeps presenting itself over and over again – it can seem impossible to find joy. The darkness can feel all-encompassing, it can feel like the heaviest of weights.

But during Advent, we remember a time when the people of God cried out for joy. They cried out for freedom. They waited in expectant hope for their Messiah. They prayed and prophesied and believed with all of their hearts that God would make good on this promise – that something better was coming. Emmanuel, God with us, the Word made flesh – something was on its way. A new day was coming.

So this Advent, we remember the same. For those of us in a dark season of our lives, we remember during Advent that God did not ordain that the darkness would last forever. For just as Isaiah prophesied, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned…

For to us a child is born,

    to us a son is given,

    and the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called

    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the greatness of his government and peace

    there will be no end.”

Yes, joy has come in the person of Jesus. The character of God, made flesh, here to dwell among us. Joy is here still. And in this second Advent, as we wait in expectant hope for the Resurrection, we long for the fulfillment of perfect joy.

Take heart. Raise your hymns of joy. He has overcome the world.

Is joy easy for you this season? What is it that makes this season difficult for you? Where do you find joy when things are dark for you?

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This is The Grove and we want to hear from you! You can link up your blog post, or share your practices, ponderings, wisdom, questions, ideas, and creative expressions with us in the comments below.

Here’s our Instagram collection from this week using #VelvetAshesJoy. You can add yours!


  1. Jodie December 15, 2017

    Kelly, I love this part “For those of us in a dark season of our lives, we remember during Advent that God did not ordain that the darkness would last forever. For just as Isaiah prophesied, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned…” I can picture the light breaking through the darkness as it did in the time of Jesus. Thank you for this reminder during Advent.

  2. Gracia December 16, 2017

    Kelly, thank you for being willing to share your story. It said what I needed to hear, it said what I need to remember, abd here is why. O man, where do I start. I woke up to some pretty terrible news of my best friend suddenly passing away. And like that a season full of so much joy for me has suddenly turned very dark. Looking inwardly, I see a night light, maybe a lamp, of joy still very present in my heart. This type of grief is so new to me, my grandmother passed away in August weeks after I arrived in my first year of serving Christ internationally. Then just months later, this happens? It hurts. It is not fun. But God is bigger than all of it. There is joy in my heavy heart resting in the truths and promises of who our Savior is and what he has done for us. The weight of his sacrifice and death almost seems more real to me as I can now relate what it means to lose someone so close and dear to your heart. It is my prayer that I allow myself to grieve (not that I really know what that looks like) but that my focus stays on Christ and that HE is the one who will be glorified in this situation.

    1. Michele December 16, 2017

      Oh, Gracia, I’m so sorry for your loss! Praying with you for ‘good grief’ that is able to find great comfort in Jesus, and that you find the right people to process with, or to just let you be a mess with when you just need to be a mess. I hope you’re also able to get some good calls in with mutual friends because I know how hard it is to be away from everyone who is mourning the same loss. I think it’s absolutely the hardest thing about being overseas and can’t imagine experiencing it twice in the first year! Know that you really are not alone (it’s more than a great name for a campaign)! I’m sure all of us who see your comment will be praying for you!

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