Joy to the world! The Lord is come.
Let earth receive her King.
Several weeks ago, in preparation for advent, my pastor turned our attention to the story of preparation for Jesus’ arrival. Israel had sat in silence for years and years, wondering if God’s promised redemption would ever come. Then, one day, two humble families heard his voice again, and as people say, “the rest is history.”
Elizabeth became pregnant with John the Baptist, who would declare Christ’s coming Kingdom. When Mary arrived to visit Elizabeth, baby John leapt with joy in her womb. Elizabeth immediately knew something special was at hand.
I can imagine that both Mary and Elizabeth were a bit bewildered by all the messages from angels and miracle babies, but the Holy Spirit confirmed in their hearts the joy in the mystery of it all. The Messiah would arrive as a tiny babe.
Though both ladies surely wondered and fretted over how it would all come to be, joy overwhelmed their reunion. I imagine them hunkered down together, Elizabeth pregnant in her old age, Mary in her chastity. Perhaps they spent their nights chatting for the months Mary stayed, baking bread together, staying up late into the evenings, windows lit with a newer kind of light. The women shared in something that the outside world did not understand, so they waited in joy together, anticipating the coming of their Savior.
Today, we, too, wait this next week as we anticipate the Christmas celebration. We will attend parties, and hunker in our own homes, candles lit in our windows. The smell of freshly baked goodies will fill the air, some kind of special joy filling our hearts. This joy comes not only from these special traditions, but also and forevermore from the presence of Him that is available to us all year round, for “In his presence is the fullness of joy” (Isaiah 26:11).
His presence fills the broken and the beautiful places. He fills our homes, when all our family snuggles inside, and He fills our homes when many of the sheep of our fold have wandered far. His presence inspires the church choir to belt out hymns, but it also whispers to those trapped in a city where families are not sure they will face tomorrow.
I am all too aware that many people feel joy will never be theirs, for I have dwelt in that pit of despair myself. The darkness and silence and pain of this world is real and tangible and not to be discredited. However, Jesus came out of the silence into this dark world, and with Him came His presence, always available, even in any pit you might find yourself.
We don’t have to acquire things, or reach a certain stage of life, or be healed, or understand. We don’t even have to feel that warm, sought after Christmas-feeling to have His joy. God’s good presence is available, and joy is hidden there. This joy doesn’t make sense from the outside looking in, but it lights our hearts and our homes, and gives us hope for tomorrow.
We don’t have to look away from the pain to find joy. It is (or rather, He is) there, too. This truth is truly Joy to our world.