One of our most beloved Christmas carols is Joy to the World…not to be confused with another popular feel-good tune about a suspicious friendship with a wine-sipping bullfrog named Jeremiah that proclaims, “Joy to the world, all the boys and girls…Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea; joy to you and me.” I for one am all for the fishes in the sea being joyful if it’s in their capacity to be so. But the kind of joy the world needs isn’t synonymous with fleeting moments of warm fuzzies splashed randomly about our lives. The kind of joy we need is deep, abiding, unshakable. Consider the circumstances of Mary, the mother of our Lord. She has been visited by an angel and informed that she is going to be pregnant and give birth to a Savior. Imagine yourself in Mary’s place. Yes, you have been visited by an angel of the Lord—quite a big deal by anyone’s standards. But you are also a young girl, in your teens, and unmarried. You are faced with questions. What will people think of me? How can I live up to what God is asking of me? How will Joseph my fiancé react? How in the world is all of this going to work out?
Surely these and many more questions occupied Mary’s thinking throughout her experience. Nevertheless, her initial response provides a clue about the nature of true joy.
“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Luke 1:46, 47
Mary rejoiced in God. She humbly recognized that God’s presence and activity in her life was reason to rejoice. We can learn a similar lesson in joy from our fellow traveler Habakkuk.
“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” Habakkuk 3:17-18
Habakkuk was able to look beyond the very real difficulties of life to an even greater reality—the God who is with us is not surprised or worried about a thing.
Whatever the circumstances of our lives, joy is possible. Like Habakkuk and like Mary, we can say, “I will rejoice in God my Savior.” This Advent and Christmas season remind us that God is indeed present and active in our lives. Our God is all-powerful. He is loving, merciful, gracious, slow to anger, just, kind, and all-wise. He is Immanuel…God with us. He is present in our chaos and our pain. He is with us at our birthday parties and our funerals, in our job promotions and in our lay-offs. God Himself is with us. This is the reason for our joy.
In just a few days, this Advent season will pass and we will celebrate Christmas, the birth of Christ. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal Christ—Immanuel—to you in new ways. Ponder the following scripture passages this week and allow the joy of the Lord to sink deep into your soul.
Habbakuk 3:17, 18
I Peter 1:8, 9
An Advent Prayer
Come long-awaited Jesus, Savior of all.
Let the joy of the Father’s heart
Pour into our own hearts
And flow from us to others
Who are desperately seeking a reason...