The couch cushions gave way as I sunk into them, trying not to spill my cup of coffee. It was 5:45 AM, and I was trying to wake up. The memory of the day before was still heavy on my mind. Teenage angst had blown up with rage and defiance, which sure destroys a mama’s heart.
I used to sing “The Joy of the Lord is My Strength” under my breath 2 hours into bedtime with this same child when he was younger. It was the only thing that kept me sane for those last few minutes of the day after my patience had been exhausted.
To make matters worse, this is the season of Joy. How on earth am I supposed to be joyful or feel joy when my heart is hurting so much?
Can you relate? Maybe it’s not your kid. It could be your spouse. Perhaps you’re dealing with loss. This year has brought loss in so many ways. I don’t think it’s too far off to say we are all trying to find some kind of joy this Christmas.
On that deep dark night, the angels appeared to announce Jesus’ birth so many years ago. They brought “good news of great joy for all the people.” His birth paved the way for us to receive His joy. He had to be born so the story could unfold into His death and resurrection, then further into the coming of the Holy Spirit. The joy of the Lord is ours because He lives within us. Maybe that’s the best gift of all!
The shepherd’s candle celebrates joy.
We are in the middle of week 3 of Advent, and the theme is joy. The third candle we light is traditionally known as the shepherd’s candle. We are looking ahead in anticipation of the joy of Jesus’ birth and the joy that we receive because of His birth.
The shepherds were also waiting that night, even though they had no idea of the magnitude of what they were waiting for.
They were waiting for the morning, for the night watch to be over. The night was cold and dangerous for sheep and the shepherds watching over them. But more importantly, it had been 400 years since God had spoken to the Jewish people. He hadn’t sent any prophets, and they were still waiting for the messiah prophesied long ago. They knew morning would come, but they had no idea that the waiting for the messiah was about to be over.
Abruptly in the middle of the darkness appears an angel. “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”
What is the biblical definition of joy?
John Piper defines biblical joy as a good feeling, but a good feeling that is emotional and out of our control. It is brought about within us by the Lord. In essence, It’s safe to say that it is a gift.
Christian joy is a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit,
as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the word and in the world.
– John Piper, Desiring God
In Greek, the word for ‘joy’ that the angel used to announce Jesus’ birth is “chara,” meaning gladness. This word can tell someone bringing joy, receiving joy, or an occasion of joy. In this case, it was all three wrapped up into one. Jesus was bringing joy, people were receiving joy, and His birth was an occasion for joy.
While it is circumstantial, it comes because the Lord opens our eyes to His goodness and beauty. Joy is one of the tell-tale signs of a Christian and is one of the fruits of the spirit (Galatians). Joy comes as we walk closely in a relationship with our Heavenly Father.
Biblical joy is a gift from the Lord.
The angel announced the good news of great joy.
God sent the angels to shepherds- ordinary men doing menial lowly work. He sent them to people who were quietly going about their work. History tells us that the shepherds were more like social outcasts. Yet God chose to announce the birth of His son to them.
What an incredible inspiration of joy! I don’t know about you, but I sure can relate to the shepherds. I’m just an ordinary girl going about my menial work as a wife and mom day in and day out, but God sent His son for me. He loved me enough to make a way for a relationship with me, a relationship that brings joy.
The gift of joy is our light to the world, just as the angels lit up the sky as they brought their message of joy.
Jesus didn’t just come to this earth to interact with the people of that time. He came for future generations. He came to bring everlasting joy! The angel said great joy because the joy wouldn’t stop with his immediate family. It would reach through the ages to the rich and poor alike.
Both the important and insignificant have access to this joy.
Gods sent word of this joy in many ways, too. He sent the angels to the shepherds, a star to the Wiseman, and the Wisemen to the king. God used nature, the supernatural, and people to spread the word. Today it is the same. God inspires joy within those who walk with him supernaturally through nature and other people as He reveals His goodness to us.
The shepherds were quiet and waiting all those years ago. They were diligently living out their calling. They were watching and waiting expectantly for the night to be over. Little did they know that joy would burst onto the scene and end the dark time of God’s silence.
It took days for me to wrestle with finding joy this Christmas amid the darkness of the motherhood season I find myself in. But I’m so very grateful that joy isn’t circumstantial. I don’t even have to try to force it or pretend to have it.
The good news of great joy is for us, too.
Jesus himself was a gift of joy from God, and believers who have received this gift have also received the gift of joy in their hearts. So this Christmas, at the end of a challenging year, we just need to accept the gift of joy provided for us. Even when our mama’s heart feels destroyed, Jesus still came to earth for us.
Isn’t that good news of great joy?!
More in the Advent Series:
First week- Candle of Hope: How To Find The Hope Of Christmas Despite A Difficult Year
Second week- Candle of Peace: Are you longing for a gift of Peace that will set you free?
Third week- Candle of Joy: The Good News of Great Joy is Just as Meaningful today.
Fourth week- Candle of Love: How to Be Obedient to God’s Call Like Mary Was
Fifth week- Candle of Christ: What is the difference between knowing about God and knowing God?