“The people who walk in darkness will see a great light.
For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.”
– Isaiah 9:2
At the time when Jesus was born, the world was a place of much darkness. The Roman Empire had enslaved many people and heavily taxed the others. Corruption reigned supreme. When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the average person would not have detected a shift. People were waiting for a Messiah to sweep down from the heavens to break their chains with warrior angels at His side. Nobody expected that God incarnate would be a baby born, in a barn, to an unwed teenaged mother.
This is why, for me, the Christmas story is such a beautiful one. It reveals so much about God’s character. The Christmas story tells us that God does not do what’s expected, but He always fulfills his promises. He is the God who brings light to the darkest situations. From an unwed teenaged mother came our Saviour. From death on the cross came our risen King. This is a God who redeems everything, just not in the way we think he might.
When people talk about joy at Christmas, it’s good to keep this story in mind. The world tells us that Christmas is the Most Wonderful Time of the Year; it’s a time meant to be filled with happiness and holiday spirit. But if for you, Christmas is a season of sorrow, grief, or fear, take heart that this in no way exempts you from the joy.
Joy is often confused with happiness, but it is not the same thing at all. Happiness is driven by feelings and tends to depend on external circumstances. We are happy if we win the lottery or our child is named student of the month. We are happy when our team wins the game or we are sitting on a beach. We are happy when we are with friends or are eating chocolate.
Joy, by contrast, is unshakeable.
Joy is what Paul felt when he wrote his letters from prison. Beaten, betrayed, and fearing for his life, he was still able to feel joy. He rejoiced because he knew Jesus, and he rejoiced because he lived saved. In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Paul urges us to rejoice in all circumstances. He does not say this because he never suffered: he says this because he suffered a lot. And he understands that even when the world is hard, we can be joyful because God loves us.
We can be joyful because we are forgiven. We can be joyful because everything is redeemed. We can be joyful because Jesus was born and promises to come again.
We can be joyful because “in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.” We can be joyful because Jesus will meet us in our brokenness because He knows what it is like to be broken. We can be joyful because when we stopped going to God, God came to us.
This week, we light the pink advent candle as we celebrate the joy of living as a follower of Christ: a joy that promises to sustain us and comfort us, whatever we might face.
Joy to the world.