Hi everyone, Rob here again. On Sunday I experienced joy. In the morning we heard the stories of 5 young people and then at lunchtime we baptised them in the local river, singing songs, hugs all round and a meal shared together in warm summer sunshine. Joy, joy, joy. After that I presided over the renewing of marriage vows by a Solomon Island couple who were returning home after 4 years with us. Again there were hugs, tears and smiles among friends. Joy, joy, joy.
Joy is the third theme of Advent. Jesus says to the disciples in John 15:9-11, “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” Then in John 17:13 he prays, “Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy.” Jesus came to fill us with his joy. He was and is full of joy and he wants to pass it on to us. How often have I overlooked this fact? Jesus is joyful and in him, I can be joyful too.
I don’t know about you but I find joy to be very elusive. Sunday was full of joy but on Monday I woke up with a headache that got progressively worse. Parents are full of joy at the birth of their child but a month or more of sleepless nights will soon fix that! The tennis champion Andre Agassi found that the joy of winning lasted a lot shorter in his life than the pain of losing. Why is this? John Eldredge shares some wisdom that he was once given: “The enemy is out to steal your joy.” Now that makes sense! Joy always feels like it’s being stolen from us doesn’t it?
But Jesus was inviting us to enter into a joy so deep that it can’t be stolen, just as his joy couldn’t be stolen, not even at the cross. It is his joy that we are after because we are in him. Joy arises out of our identity in Christ not in our circumstances of life. It has to. If it’s reliant on circumstances then we will never attain it; certainly not on this side of Christ’s return. Even so, joy experienced now is a glimpse into our eternal future. Then our joy will be complete because we will be fully Christ’s. Our hearts will be whole and we will see him as he really is. Joy, joy, joy.
But joy can begin now and be experienced more now. Jesus said so! And this joy is intended for all. This is what the angels say to the shepherds in Luke 2:10-11: “‘Don’t be afraid!’ he said. I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!” The invitation is ours to take up; the deeper we go into Christ, the more joy we will have. As we become dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11), the more joy we will have. As we meditate on the coming of Christ at Christmas – God in the flesh! – and the wonders of his love, the more joy we will have.
We’ll be able to say with Peter, “You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy (1 Peter 1:8).”
Enjoy this Christmas song of joy: “Born is the King.”