The angel said unto them, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” (Luke 2:10)
What begins with waiting and advances through preparation ultimately results in the experience of great joy.
From a biblical perspective, joy at the deepest level is something altogether different from happiness. Happiness is based on circumstances and what is going on around us, but true joy is rooted in Jesus Christ and what is going on within us. While we wait and prepare for Christmas, we must remember that joy is an inside job, and it is always a choice for the Christian. We can choose to live in joy . . . or in something less.
What was the “great joy” that the angel promised to the shepherds? It was the coming of Jesus. Jesus is our joy. And since we know that He has promised never to leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5), we can be assured that joy is to be a continual experience. Joy sees problems as possibilities. Joy sees obstacles as opportunities. Joy sees life from God’s perspective, not our own, and when it does, we can echo David and exult, “I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy” (Psalm 43:4 ESV).
When the Bible speaks of the joy of the Lord, we are to understand it as something much more than a simple feeling. If joy was only a sensation, how in the world would we be able to experience it during those inevitable storms of loss and grief that come our way? It is only when we understand joy as Jesus, and see ourselves as the branch in union with Jesus the vine, that we will be able to experience unspeakable joy. And, as we saw on Wednesday, our preparation will increase our experience of joy through the time we spend in prayer and in His Word.
Here is one more thing to think about: When we consider the character of Christ, we make deposits in our joy bank. Jesus lived a sinless life for us. Jesus died a sacrificial death for us. Jesus rose supernaturally from the grave for us. Jesus is coming back from heaven for us. Jesus has loved us unconditionally and forgiven us completely for all eternity, and the more we consider His character, the more joy we will experience in this life, regardless of the circumstances we are currently facing.
And this brings us to our final Advent message on Monday: Love.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!