Joy is a deep sense of contentment and wellbeing despite circumstances. It is the very height of extreme happiness that we sometimes experience at the birth of a child or on a wedding day. Joy is the heartfelt expression of emotion that arises, floods and fills the heart in response to the best news, good news, a realisation that fills us with wonder and delight. Joy. Deep Joy. This is at the heart of the Christian faith.
The joyful news was that the Saviour, the Lord had been born. This was news that God’s redemptive plan of forgiveness, of reconciliation and of peace was to be found in a baby lying in a manger.
If the shepherds had been shocked by the appearance of one angel, what happened next must have filled them with wonder … Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests. (Luke 2:13–14) The angelic message of joy heralded by joyful angels praising God and honouring him. One scholar has written, As if the announcement were not enough, the heavenly choir strikes up to praise God … Jesus may be lying in an animal trough, but heaven is present at his birth. This news is so good that it resounds joyfully throughout heaven as these exalted heavenly angels burst forth in praise. Heaven is testifying to events on earth, the birth of the Saviour, Messiah, Lord. The King of Heaven had come to earth and it was as if the angels were joyfully compelled to get the news out there and hurry the shepherds along to see this baby so they could share the joy.
If we fast forward to Jesus’ adult life, we find him teaching parables of the lost being found. I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:10). Just as the angels rejoiced at the Saviour's birth, now they rejoice when the Saviour saves another lost soul.
Then at the Last Supper Jesus explained part of God’s purpose saying … I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:11) Jesus’ birth and his death are bracketed with news of joy! Jesus, God incarnate, shares, imparts his own joy to us. Human joy, as rich and full as it may be, is incomplete without the joy of the Lord.
Joy a mark of God’s Kingdom. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17) This summary points to the essentials, the basics of the Kingdom of God. It is a Kingdom of Joy, whose joyful King imparts Joy through the presence and divine enabling of His Holy Spirit.
The weight of this world, the cares we carry, the busyness of the modern age can divert our attention from, and even rob us of, joy. Too easily we begin to take our blessings for granted. We are so used to finding forgiveness in Christ we forget how privileged we are. This attitude of familiarity can undermine and drain us of Joy. Angel. Census. Journey. Innkeeper. Stable. Manger. Shepherds. Star. Wise men. Year after year after year, the story does not change, and we can almost be immune to it. The traditions we add to this, feasting, travel, shopping, presents, cards, trees, family we long to see and others we long to avoid. Making time. Making room. Fitting it all in and doing it all over again. All of this … and still be joyful?
We can be joyful because the Saviour has been born, he has given us his joy and we are part of a joyful Kingdom. Therefore we can join with people of faith echoing the words of Paul, Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4)
How do you find joy?
How could you share joy with others this Christmas season?
Rev John Malcolm