But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” (Luke 2:10)
This is the third of four Advent messages I will be presenting to you. During this blessed Advent season, 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, while joy is based on 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.
What was the “great joy” the angels promised to the shepherds? It was the coming of Jesus. Jesus is our joy. And knowing that He has promised never to leave us or forsake us, we can be assured that joy is to be a continual experience. Joy sees problems as possibilities and obstacles as opportunities. Joy sees life from God’s perspective, not our own, and when it does, we can echo David, saying, “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 that joy is something much more than a mere feeling. If that was not true, how in the world would we be able to experience it during the inevitable storms of loss and grief that will pass over us? Only when we understand joy as Jesus, seeing ourselves as branches in union with the vine, will we be able to experience unspeakable joy. And as we saw on Wednesday, we increase our joy during our time of preparation through time in prayer and time in the Word.
Here is one more thing to consider: 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 dead for us. Jesus is coming back from heaven for us. Jesus has loved us, eternally and unconditionally, and He has forgiven us completely. The more we consider His character, the more joy we experience in this life, regardless of whatever we may currently be facing.
And this brings us to our final Advent message on Monday: Love. God is love (1 John 4:16). I hope you’ll be back to join me in reflecting on His amazing love, expressed so powerfully in the birth of the baby Jesus.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!