During the third week of Advent, we celebrate Joy. Often the passage Philippians 4:4-5 is remembered.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
This passage encourages the reader to rejoice in this season because the Lord is near! In other words, this week celebrates the joy of Christ’s coming to earth. The third week’s candle in Advent is also known as the Shepherd Candle to highlight the joy the shepherds experienced when they received the good news about Christ’s birth in Luke 2:8-20. During the middle of the night, the darkest time, the shepherds encountered angels. Those angels brought good news of great joy for all people.
There are two things there that we can miss if we don’t meditate on that. One, we must discover what that joy really is. Two, we must understand who is this joy for.
The words in Scripture can mean rejoice, be happy, or be joyful. When you see these words appear in the Bible (depending on the translation, the word “joy” appears more than 100 times), you’ll notice something unique about Christian joy. It isn’t dependent upon circumstances. Biblical joy is an attitude God’s people adopt because of their hope in God’s love and promises. This joy transcends circumstances. The Bible doesn’t shy away from the fact that this world is broken and full of death, sadness, and decay. There is no promise that these things will get better (in fact, Jesus says they’ll continue on in the world). The Bible Project puts it this way: The joy of God’s people is not determined by their struggles but by their destiny.
Isaiah captures this in chapter 51:11.
Those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads.Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
When angels appeared to shepherds hundreds of years later to announce the arrival of the Messiah King, the prominent theme of joy wouldn’t be lost on Luke’s readers. Chapter 2 says, “10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.”
So, who is joy for? The angels say it. But they expand Isaiah’s prophesy who was specifically talking about the people of Israel. The angels say that the joy Jesus brings is for EVERYONE. That’s a huge change in the historical narrative. God’s people were those whose attitude was joy because of God’s love and promise to them. Now, with Jesus, God’s love and promise of mercy and forgiveness is open to all people. In fact, the culmination of God’s joy for his people has come in Jesus. You and I are now living in the time of God’s coming.
The question we must consider this season is how we will step into that joy in new and fresh ways. To do that, you must check your heart and attitude concerning your current circumstances. Whatever is hard, difficult, disappointing, frustrating, or unknown… what is your response? Stress? To develop a hard heart? To push others away or to draw them into your anger? Do you turn to God’s Word to discover or rediscover his love and promises?
Christmas isn’t about being reminded that you should have joy. It’s about practicing present joy. It’s about your spreading Jesus-style joy to others. Trust me. There is something you used to do that brought you into the presence of God’s love and joy that you have been neglecting for a while. Or there is something God has promised if you’d just take a step of trust toward him. As you consider, think on this:
You are the joy set before Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). He had you in his mind when he was beaten and bleeding. He had you in his sights when he took the nails into his body. We are his joy! Your neighbor is his joy. Your spouse and children are his joy. Your boss is his joy. Those you don’t get along with are Jesus’s joy. You are his joy. Worship him because that is true.
Reach out to that ONE person whom you want to share Jesus’s joy with. Invite them to join you and your family at one of our Christmas Eve services. Be sure to register! You can access our Christmas page below.
White Oak Christian Church