Advent is a season wherein the Church rejoices over the birth of Jesus, anticipating his return. When Jesus was born, there was joy all around: the wisemen rejoiced at the sight of the star that would lead them to the place of the newborn king; Mary rejoiced upon hearing that she would carry the Savior of the world; the angels delivered a message of joy; and the shepherds rejoiced upon hearing that message.
If you’re anything like me, you’re thinking “That’s a nice story! But sadly, it ends up in pain & sorrow on the cross. Joy is just a fleeting emotion, a temporary thing that eventually ends.” I know I’m not the only who has thought something similar, especially in light of the many things that seem to rob us of joy. But is that it for joy? Is joy simply a beautiful note played on an instrument: sweet but short, too short? Worse yet, is joy destined to give way to the darkness of pain & sorrow like it did in the life of Jesus?
As I was preparing for this series, I stumbled across something that caused me to wonder. It comes from a letter written to Jewish Christians called “Hebrews.” One of the major themes of this letter is faith and perseverance, especially during hard situations. Speaking about life from the example that Jesus gives us, the author of Hebrews says this:
“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrew 12:2).
Did you catch it? Yes, there is tremendous pain & sorrow at the cross. But beyond it there is joy, incredible joy! There was joy at the birth of Jesus. There was pain & sorrow at the cross. But there is joy on the other side of the cross. There is Joy Through It All! But what exactly is joy? That’s a great question!
Joy, like most of us probably think of it, is a response to good things. For example, the birth of child brings joy. Or how about a wedding? A wedding certainly brings joy as a man and woman join together to become one flesh. These events bring joy to our lives and that joy is expressed in all sorts of ways: festivals, feasts, singing, shouting, clapping hands, even dancing! This is joy because of something.
Joy is also something anticipated and hoped for, something that will eventually replace grief and sadness. You might think of this idea by reflecting on the darkness of night giving way to the brightness of a new day. The night can seem long, too long, but beyond the night there is a bright new day full of glorious sunshine! Human history is filled with many instances of slavery. The anticipation and hope that those hard times would eventually end was the reason that those persons had joy. This is joy anticipated and hoped for.
Lastly, joy is a way of life in a weary world full of brokenness. The Old Testament prophet Habakkuk said that even if all else should fail and there’s no seeming reason for joy in this lifetime, still he will find joy in the God who saves (c.f. Hab 3:17-19). This joy is a way of life which transcends the brokenness of this world because it rests in God who transcends this broken world. This is joy notwithstanding.
Our advent them is Joy: Joy Through It All. There was joy at the beginning of creation. But there is suffering in this present world; and yet, joy is anticipated and hoped for at the dawn of a renewed creation! There is joy at the birth of a child. But there is suffering in this lifetime, even death; and yet, joy is anticipated and hoped for at the promise of eternal life! There is joy at the spiritual rebirth of someone who responds to God’s saving grace. But there is suffering in this lifetime as a Christian, even persecution unto death; and yet, joy is anticipated and hoped for in the promise of eternal reward! And finally, there was joy at the birth of Christ. There was suffering at the cross; and yet, it was because of the joy set before Jesus – resurrection life – that was anticipated, hoped for, and delivered upon! Truly, there is joy through it all.
I’m excited for this series and I hope you’ll join us on Sunday mornings at 9:00am, 1187 Fairview Road in Manheim. We’re going to talk about the reasons we have joy, the anticipation and hope for joy in the midst of hard situations, and joy in spite of the brokenness in this world. Truly, I hope you find Joy Through It All!