With a name like mine, there’s never a shortage of what I’ll call “personalized Christmas ornaments!” Joy seems to be everywhere around the holiday season.
Searching for “Joy” on our Christmas tree isn’t hard. Searching for joy in real life might be harder some days. But the third week of Advent calls for a celebration …a time of rejoicing!
“Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! …Remember, the Lord is coming soon.”
As we lit the third candle today, we’re reminded of the anticipation of joy that the Baby is coming–the Messiah! He’s on His way! It’s not long before He arrives.
It’s also known as “the “Shepherd’s Candle.” To the shepherd’s great joy, the angels announced that Jesus came for humble, unimportant people like them, too.” (from Crosswalk.com) I love that line, “humble, unimportant people like them.” Jesus was so good at bringing joy to the everyone in the world no matter how rich or poor, strong or weak, able or disabled, intellectual or mentally challenged. He came to bring joy to all. He moved right in and made Himself at home.
The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son,
But not everybody seemed to find Him on the night of His birth. Not everyone was looking. Or were they? Maybe they were looking in places marketed to bring joy? Or maybe they were so caught up in their own world, they simply passed on by as Alfred Delp ponders …
“How many of us, in our good-hearted way, have ridden past the stable on the high horse of our opinions and convictions, leaving the Child behind, not realizing He was there? How many of us have stood up for what we believed, even in defiance, but were not awake to the fact that we were riding past a miracle–the miracle of life and love?”
For others, perhaps life had stripped their joy and left them broken and bleeding by the side of the road? This Baby would know all about that too and choose to be born into the neighborhood of the broken and bleeding …to heal others through His own bleeding.
Looking for joy isn’t always as easy as it seems. The source of true joy often hides in the un-celebrated places of suffering …the smelly and vulnerable places. Jesus shed Light in those places as well.
To those who feel like they aren’t going to make it …to those too weak to go on …to those with weak-knees and feeble hands …to the scared and to the lonely …to those discouraged and disillusioned …betrayed or forgotten — He came for you …for me.
“Energize the limp hands,
strengthen the rubbery knees.
Tell fearful souls,
“Courage! Take heart!
God is here, right here,
on his way to put things right
And redress all wrongs.
He’s on his way! He’ll save you!”
Blind eyes will be opened,
deaf ears unstopped,
Lame men and women will leap like deer,
the voiceless break into song.
Springs of water will burst out in the wilderness,
streams flow in the desert.
Hot sands will become a cool oasis,
thirsty ground a splashing fountain.”
The desperate are willing to keep searching…”human beings willing to risk and venture to break camp and to go wandering through deserts, to leave for far lands and go seeking because they were determined to find what was ultimate.” (Alfred Delp, “When the Time Was Fulfilled” –Plough Publishing)
For some, joy might have fallen behind the Christmas tree. It may feel that the Christmas season came with a “joy not included” tag. Heavy losses can leave us heavy-hearted. We may have once experienced the joy of Jesus but now it seems elusive.
The good news is …while we talk a big talk of preparing for Jesus to come, He’s the one Who has been preparing in advance for us and He knew we’d need some encouragement on days like this.
He prepared for the longing heart …the thirsty soul …those who feel dry and deserted. He spoke words to let us know we’re not alone through David as he pours out his heart in the Psalms for days like this …
“As the deer longs for streams of water,
so I long for you, O God.
I thirst for God, the living God.
When can I go and stand before him?
Day and night I have only tears for food,
while my enemies continually taunt me, saying,
“Where is this God of yours?”
My heart is breaking
as I remember how it used to be:
I walked among the crowds of worshipers,
leading a great procession to the house of God,
singing for joy and giving thanks
amid the sound of a great celebration!
Why am I discouraged?
Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again—
my Savior and my God!
Now I am deeply discouraged,
but I will remember you—”
He brought joy to the world over 2,000 years ago and He’s still bringing joy today. It may feel hard to find but it’s there. It’s here. He’s here. Let’s keep looking. He’s holding out a candle to light our way.
While looking for JOY this week, consider soaking in one passage a day as you wait with anticipation for God to bring you good news of GREAT JOY. And may your JOY be full !
And here’s another space for intentional meditation as you journey through the rest of this Advent Season — “When the Time Was Fulfilled,” compiled by the great people at Plough Publishing House.