Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Real Joy of the Season

The darkness ripples, its inky black turning a lighter hue of grey morning right before golden orb crests and spills life awash over everything it touches.

Such is what happens this night, the third week of Advent. Third purple candle ignites, the three together strong enough to cast a mixture of light and shadow on all the faces surrounding it. The darkness shies away, knowing what is coming...Who is coming.

Tonight marks the third week of advent. During Week One, we focused on Christ being “our Hope.” Last week, the focus is on Jesus being "the Way." And for this third week, we seek to remember that Christ is "our Joy."

The angel who hand delivered the very first Birth Announcements of our Savior's birth to the shepherds called this Word made flesh "good news of great joy which will be for all the people" (Lk. 2:10). Joy had come! They just had to seek and find it in the most unexpected places--a cattle trough.

During His ministry, Christ tried to teach His Disciples how to enter into His joy: "Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full" (Jn. 15:9-11). Full joy, abiding joy, abundant joy--it was only found through a love relationship with this Person of the trinity.

For the most part, though, the disciples just didn't get it, this joy found in the abiding. They thought it was something tangible to be touched, smelled, tasted, a joy found in Christ's literal kingdom coming to earth in a predictable political fashion.

And so when their Savior died, when the one in whom they placed the hope of all Israel was placed behind a wall of near-immovable rock, they scattered, were inconsolable, joyless.

Only after the Disciples saw the resurrected Christ did they finally understand Christ, Himself, was their joy...not because of what He did for them but because of who He was: "And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising God" (Lk. 24:52-53).

To remember who Jesus truly is--our hope, the only way, our chief joy--is the only way to prepare our hearts for this Season of Joy. To experience that joy requires our worship--continual praising of God. Otherwise, our joy will be hollow, only an echo of the pure joy that's found in a Christmas celebrated without Christ.

When we are enduring the temporary trials of this earth and think we cannot enter into the joy of the season, we must worship Him anyway. We should not hide our disappointment from Him or drum up some 10 cent joy from within ourselves.

He knows already.

Instead, we must consciously choose to raise our voice in a song only to Him. Read His Word. Or just bow heads to whisper thanks for His Son before weeping before His throne.

His is the joy that no one can take away (Jn. 16:22).

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