Today is the third Sunday of Advent: Joy.
Joy. That magical feeling that seems especially vibrant during the Christmas season. From the excitement of children finding gifts under the tree to the wonder that accompanies gently falling snow. Joy is contagious. It spreads through a simile, an act of kindness, or a kind word. It warms us from the inside.
In this verse from Luke, I love that joy is wrapped up in the good tidings. Good news. You know the feeling of hearing something good. It encourages us. Lifts our spirits. The news the angel delivered in this verse is even better news than anything we could ever hear. It tells of a baby. And not just any baby. The baby that will bring joy to the world.
Speaking of world, that is another part of this verse that I love. This good news, this joy, it is not just for the religious, the good, those of certain countries, skin colors, or beliefs. The gift is for each and every person without preference or prejudice. No one has a corner on these good tidings. It is for the whole world.
Lastly, think back to that piece of good news you’ve recently received. The news that incited that joyful feeling. Did you also feel fear? Or just excitement? Or maybe even boldness? It makes me think of the verse that says, “…the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10b). This good news, it bolsters us, especially when fear, sadness, and weariness assail us. Feelings that often seem prevalent during this time of year.
Would you agree that the holidays can be especially hard despite the abundance of seemingly happy things? Witnessing joy in someone else can reveal the disparity between what we see and what we feel. Loneliness, heartache, and disappointment can seem overwhelming. Perhaps this year most of all.
But, my reader friends, fear not. For the gift of Christmas, the baby whose birth we celebrate, is good news. He is the one who weeps with us. He is the one who comforts us. And he is the one who will never leave us alone. No matter our past, our identity, or our actions. Nothing can change his love for us.
God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember, Christ, our Saviour
Was born on Christmas day
(God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen, English Traditional Christmas Carol)
As we celebrate this third week of advent, my prayer for you is that the good tidings the angel brought to the shepherds long ago will plant a seed of comfort and joy in your hearts that will bloom throughout the holidays and beyond.