Sunday, December 14, 2014
Advent: Unspeakable Joy!
Today is the third Sunday in Advent, a time for many congregations around the world to light the candle of JOY. We talk a lot about joy in this season of the year. We sing Joy To the World. We talk about the joy of being with family and friends. We share in the joy of Christmas parties and special worship services. But let's be real for a minute. Sometimes the joy we speak of is hard to find during the holiday season. There is merriment, festivity, laughter, happiness and excitement- but often very little joy. My favorite definition of joy is "a contentment that satisfies the soul and clears the mind." In all of the stress of Christmas time that kind of joy is often in short supply. We worry. We want too much. We expect too much. We try to please too often. We search for happiness- and we lose the joy.
When the angels appeared to the smelly shepherds in Luke 2, they made it clear that the arrival of the Christ-child was all about joy. "I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people!" The Wise Guys saw the star in the east and "rejoiced with exceeding great joy!" It seems that that they knew instantly that life had changed forever. Jesus would later explain what that kind of joy really meant in John 10:10- "I came that you might have life, and life abundant!" Joy is not about emotions or feelings- joy is a lifestyle! It is understanding that because love came down on that first Christmas, EVERYTHING changed. Our search for things that make our hearts tingle may never end, but our search for things that give us that contented soul could be at rest. Jesus is our joy.
A fairly obscure 1970s recording artist named Lobo wrote a very obscure song called Stoney- which of course is on my iPod. In the chorus it has this great line- "The joy that you can find in living everyday, Stoney how I love your simple way." To my mind, that is the abundant life Jesus talked about bringing us- living each day with joy and purpose. Life is seldom what we want it to be. Some days it just flat out sucks. But in every day- even the suckiest ones- we can find joy in loving our family and friends. We can find joy in serving those who need our help. We can understand that joy is often not in the destination, but in the journey. And we can discover the joy- the unspeakable joy- that comes from knowing that each of us is so loved by the Creator of the universe that God sent his Son to be our guide, our friend, and to forgive our sins before we had ever committed them.
Today is a great day to be alive. And tomorrow will be as well. Find the simple joy that Jesus brings in living everyday. If we understand that Christmas is all about a story that brought good news to ALL people, then the Nativity will fill our hearts each day of the year. And that, my friends, is a MERRY CHRISTMAS! Have a blessed Sunday.
My Deliverer is Coming,