In our Advent journey to the celebration of Christmas, this third Sunday turns us to “Joy.” Are you experiencing JOY? I often walk close to sorrow. Yesterday I sat next to the bed of a man who has lived a long life who recently found out about a tumor in his brain. We talked about the likelihood that he is now writing the last pages of the last chapter. Tears welled up in my eyes, sliding down my face. The holiday songs on my car radio as I left that visit were jarringly discordant with my emotions!
This morning with the dawn, I gave thanks for the joy that I know in Jesus despite real personal loss. I cannot honestly say that I feel light, or that laughter comes easily these days. And yet, there is joy that is greater than my present experience and I will hold tightly, by faith, to that.
Christmas brings us a story that creates the possibility of joy; “for all the people!” With this phrase, “I bring you good news of great joy,” the angel reassured a group of frightened men, shepherds who were seeing the strangest sight there in the field outside of Bethlehem! Shepherds were a rough lot, earthy men. They were probably illiterate, not well versed in the prophetic texts. It is not likely that they were devout, and yet God chose to make His announcement to them. That is just amazing, at least to me. Was the angelic announcement to these ‘nobodies’ outside of the town an accident? Did the angel get lost on his way to the home of the mayor of Bethlehem? No, of course not.
God’s desire was to bring all people – shepherds from the field – and wise men from the East – to worship the Savior who had come to restore them to their Creator and Father.
Luke sums up it all up. The angels sang “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.”(Luke 2:14-18, NIV) And in that worship, they found joy.
I am going to take two cues for my life from this story.
First, I am going to turn to Jesus, to seek Him, that I might worship Him and find joy.
That worship starts with a willingness to set aside the demands of the day. The shepherds could have remained with their sheep. But they chose to go to see the Baby. They became part of a strange and wonderful story of God’s entry into our world. Wherever you are today, whatever your situation – find time to look for the Savior, to thank Him, perhaps just to wait quietly before Him offering your worship.
Second, I want to be a source of joy for others.
My prayerful goal this Season is to bring people the joy of Jesus. So many of us really do need to know God’s love as we work our way through loneliness, illness, the limitations brought on by aging, or perhaps even the weight of guilt and regret. Those who are sad in these ways are not fixed up by a present or a happy song. The darkness needs Light. Only in God can we find a reason for real and lasting joy, a hope that is bigger than any set of circumstances in this world.
I invite you to join me in this mission! “Hey, Jerry, we’re no angels.” Right you are! But we are people of the Spirit, “Christ’s ambassadors.” We have the awesome privilege of leading others to Him, sharing with them the Hope we have found. So, let’s pray for opportunities to be bringers of joy, messengers of hope.
If you’re reading this today and you are feeling the weight of disappointment, let me point you to Jesus, who is the Healer of broken hearts. He came to be our Savior, to close the gap between the Father and ourselves. He came to give us the gift of eternal life, which we can own now, while we wait for the Second Advent of our King. Tell Him your deepest need, yes, in your own words, your own way. Ask Him to help you. His answer may not come in the way you expect, but He will come to you. He promises!
Here is a word from the Word.
“So reach out and welcome one another to God’s glory.
Jesus did it; now you do it!
Jesus, staying true to God’s purposes, reached out in a special way to the Jewish insiders
so that the old ancestral promises would come true for them. As a result, the non-Jewish outsiders have been able to experience mercy and to show appreciation to God.
Just think of all the Scriptures that will come true in what we do!
For instance: Then I’ll join outsiders in a hymn-sing; I’ll sing to your name!
And this one: Outsiders and insiders, rejoice together!
And again: People of all nations, celebrate God! All colors and races, give hearty praise! And Isaiah’s word: There’s the root of our ancestor Jesse, breaking through the earth and growing tree tall, Tall enough for everyone everywhere to see and take hope!
Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy,
fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives,
filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit,
will brim over with hope! ” (Romans 15:7-13, The Message)
Lord, inspire us with joy. Sing over us, like a mother comforting her child,
that we might know joyful peace this day. Amen.