“Good news from heaven the angels bring, Glad tidings to the earth they sing: To us this day a child is given, To crown us with the joy of heaven.” Martin Luther
Repeat the sounding Joy. A prayer for advent.
The stockings are hanging, the lights twinkling brilliantly on the freshly cut Christmas tree. The old familiar songs of the season playing in the background. The holidays are here and the traditions commence. Pajamas, movie nights, sugar cookies, sweet stories of Advent told around candlelight with the minds and hearts of man, woman, and child alike in anticipation of the humble arrival of a baby King and what His birth offers us. A new beginning. Hope. Joy. Let every heart prepare Him room. The posture of our heart is significant. Because a prideful heart can’t also be a humble one. In humility we experience grace. The utmost precious of all gifts. One that we don’t deserve. But when we humbly receive this gift, we also receive hope. With hope, there is ALWAYS joy. And yet isn’t it as true as ever that while the beauty of Christmas surrounds us, we can’t ignore the broken world we live in and the broken lives we live out. The 2am prayers of a mother pleading for the return of her wandering child, the fears of a husband and wife uncertain of the fate of their marriage covenant, the burden of financial stress on the shoulders of young parents seeking to provide for their family. The sufferings and pain life has to offer are real. And yet James tells us to count it all joy- the trials we face. But how? The Lord is come. Before the birth of Jesus, his mother sings a beautiful song of praise.
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
And the spirit rejoices in God my savior,
For he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
For he who is mighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His name.
So much uncertainty for this young mother’s future. So many unanswered questions. Yet she chooses to offer praise to the Lord. She chooses Joy. Jesus looks upon those with the heart posture of humility. Because Jesus himself conveyed humility in a way that we could and never will be able to comprehend. A king born in a stable. Mary proclaims that she is seen by God. How so many of us go through life feeing unseen, neglected. And yet He sees her fully, her weaknesses, fear and all and she gives him praise. El Roi- the God who sees. And when you know you are seen by God, you can’t help but be changed. Your vision of Him, of yourself, of the rest of humanity. The savior Reigns! Let men their songs employ. Jesus came to end oppression and heal the broken hearted. What greater joy is there than this? You, the lonely, the oppressed, the angry, the neglected, the addict. He sees YOU. And wonders of His love.
“Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,
who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,
despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so
That you may not grow weary or fainthearted.”
He rules the world, with truth and grace. Jesus himself was able to endure a shameful death because of one reason- the joy set before Him. He saw the bigger purpose. The joy set before you and I is what allows us to remain joy filled even through some of our most profound pain and suffering. The author of Hebrews is reminding us to look to Jesus as the supreme example of this. Suffering need not be for nothing. In fact, it’s everything. And so this advent season, let’s be voices for one another, spurring one another on to reclaim the joy once lost in our homes, marriages, workplaces, churches, schools, friendships, and neighborhoods. Let earth receive her king…let the angel voices ring.
Jamie, I am convinced we are influenced by the advent songs and their lyrics if only we would carefully heed the words. For me, I will be turning down an isle at the grocery store and sing quietly:
God rest ye merry gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember Christ our Savior
Was born on Christmas Day
To save us all from Satan’s pow’r
When we were gone astray
Oh tidings of comfort and joy
Comfort and joy
Oh tidings of comfort and joy
The words often fall on deaf ears. Why? Probably because I’m not singing loudly enough. Hahah. Or more likely because there is a dynamic tension between the current realities and the proclaiming joy. How many of us know the joy of liberation from evil? Liberation from cancer. Liberation from violence. What a radical act of belief while under oppression to have joy. Joy under the weight of loss, joy in the current world of terror and gun violence, joy in the unknown timing of relief, rescue, or healing.
We see in the advent songs and subsequent story that our pain, our fear is displaced by a greater herald, “Joy to the world.” A weary world rejoices, as sung in O Holy Night seems to sum it up correctly.
This advent week we light the candle of joy. We look to the God of all comfort for a joy displacing fear. Joy in the face of modern pain as many Americans living in a country affluent in goods are terribly alone in suffering. And yet, strangely God comes to us in those very places of strain and tension to help us laugh again. Advent is a time of expectation and looking forward. If not now, we know because of the historical fulfilled promises of God joy will come to us. We know the Messiah came and walked among us and the world has seen his light. So we step toward the light. We attend the Christmas parties, we sign up for the choir, we gather with the family, we give gifts to the poor and neighbor alike, we help the oppressed, we do good, we wear festive clothes and sing joyful songs. We hold babies and delight in children. We laugh with tweens and celebrate with grade schoolers. We celebrate Christmas. And when we see even the smallest glimmer of joy in the celebration we believe the angel herald. We believe the good news is still causing great joy to all the people.
Luke 2:10 -14 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”