Joy to the World…

…the Lord has come!

The second week of Advent has as its focus, JOY. Joy is a crucial aspect of the season, expressed in our songs, carols and in our cards and greetings. But, what is it, really?

In Luke’s Gospel, we hear the story of a couple of elderly folks hanging around the Temple in Jerusalem – waiting. Waiting for what?  Well, they weren’t sure. A “devout” man, Simeon, was “waiting for the consolation of Israel” (Lk 2:25). A “prophet, Anna,” who was “very old,” was still waiting at age 84 for – something. She “never left the Temple, but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying” for – for something….(Lk 2:36-37). One day, a young couple entered the Temple with a baby; they were ordinary folks, just following the Torah laws of “purification” after the baby’s birth.

The Holy Spirit opened the eyes of faithful Simeon and at that moment, he knew that this was not an ordinary baby boy – this was the “Lord’s Messiah” in the flesh! (Lk 2:26). Simeon rushed out into the courtyard, in front of everybody, and praised God. He gently held the little child in his arms and declared:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation [Jesus], which you have prepared in the sight of all the nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel!” (Lk 2:29-32).

Can you imagine his joy?? This little one was who he was waiting for!

Likewise, the aging widow Anna praised God for the baby Jesus, just as Hannah had praised God for the child Samuel (1 Sa 2:1-10). The wait was over – Anna finally saw the “redemption of Jerusalem” in a little child, who was the future hope of all the nations (Lk 2:36-38).

Can you imagine her joy??  Waiting, waiting, waiting so patiently for so long for the Lord’s promises to be fulfilled….

This is the joy of Christmas – a tiny baby, wrapped in a blanket, sent by God to be the Messiah, the Savior, the Redeemer of the world, Jews and Gentiles. Simeon and Anna did not see the completion of the mission of the Messiah, though Simeon knew that it would not be an easy assignment for Jesus or for his mother (Lk 2:34-35).

And today, our world is still waiting…most of the world has no idea what it is waiting for. Perhaps our culture is looking for comfort, success, happiness, or self-fulfillment. No more violence, hatred and poverty? When will that ever happen??

Faithful Christians today, like Simeon and Anna, wait in anticipation for the complete restoration and redemption of our world by God. In the meantime, we worship, fast and pray and discover that true joy is the presence of God in the present. In John 15, Jesus promised his followers that “as the Father has loved me, so have I loved you…if you keep my commands, you will remain in my love…” He promised this (to us!) so that “HIS joy may be in you and that YOUR joy may be complete” (Jn 15:9-11)!  That is, joy is being loved by God through Christ, and his love is “in” us by the presence of the Holy Spirit!

As such, even doing menial tasks with a grateful heart can be joyful. For me, the laundry and ironing are endless and boring tasks that occasionally have to be done. But a friend once told me that she enjoyed such tasks. She prayed for her husband and his job as she ironed his shirts; she prayed for each child as she rescued little socks from the dryer. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward” (Col 3:23).

Thus, happiness is a fleeting, superficial emotion. Joy is abiding in Jesus and remembering his unfailing love. Happiness wears off, like a shiny new car. Eventually, new becomes old and the happiness is gone. Joy never goes away. It is positive thinking in a negative, corrupt world, and the ability to make lemonade out of the lemons of life. If happiness is toothpaste, joy is a deep cleaning at the dentist’s (and if you can find joy at the dentist’s, you can find it anywhere!). As we grow in our knowledge of and love for Jesus, he increases our capacity for real joy.

Know that you are loved, and know that God wants to bring you everlasting, utterly wonderful yet indescribable JOY, this Christmas and in all your years to come.

Author: Judy

Christian educator, writer, specializing in the New Testament

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