Advent 3 candlesJOY

And the angel said unto them, “Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”  Luke 2:10-11

If you watch any TV Christmas movies, you know exactly what to expect from Christmas. Bad-tempered relatives become cheery just in time for Christmas day.  Family tensions, if any exist, are smoothed and everyone gets along beautifully.  And if you’re that single woman about to get engaged to a plain, dull and boring guy with the name of Wally or Norbert, watch out!  Any moment now, an extremely handsome man with the shoulders of Thor will ride up on his motorcycle, tell you that you’re the woman of his dreams and that he just happens to love cooking, especially turkey dinners.  So you dump poor old Wally/Norbert for Hunky Cooking Guy and live happily ever after.  If, however, you live in the real world like me, you realize that sometimes Christmas is more like the opening line of Charles Dickens’ novel, A Tale of Two Cities–“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . .”

When I was little, Christmas was happy and magical, cozy and secure.  It was easy to have joy.  But in growing up, the joy sometimes gets lost in the approach to Christmas.  Life has happened along the way and now Christmas is a mix of joy and sorrow.  There are people who are no longer with us and whose absence is more keenly felt now than at other times of the year.  There’s that particular relative that brings tension to every family gathering but whom you are obligated to include.  There’s the frenzy of the malls and the grocery stores and the baking and the preparations . . . whew!  There are traditions to be upheld and expectations to be met, and while some are just lovely, they can also be exhausting and distracting.  We lose sight of the joy.

If we could travel back in time to Bethlehem 2000 years ago, stripping away the traditions and expectations one at a time as we go, and arrive at the first bare-bones Christmas, the actual birth of Christ, we would find some similarities.  It was a frenzy there as mobs of people were on the move to their home towns.  The Romans were in full charge of Israel and there was tension everywhere.  The Jewish people had been waiting for a Messiah for 42 generations, from the time of Abraham, and were groaning for their freedom and release.

And then, in the midst of it all, a newborn baby cried.  Probably not many people heard it with all the crowds and the inherent noise, and if they did, they wouldn’t have thought much about it.  The ones who did hear about it were a group of shepherds working the night shift out in the fields where it was quiet.  And what did they hear?  “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people [that’s us!]. For unto you [this is also us!] is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11).  And then a whole choir of angels was singing to them, rejoicing and glorifying God!

The shepherds were going about their regular work day when joy in the form of the baby Jesus invaded.  Jesus invaded, and life on earth has not been the same since.  Yes, there is still stress, there is still loss, there are still difficult relatives–but there is Jesus, our joy, in the midst of it all.  Let’s not miss Him in the midst of all our preparations.  After all, it is His birthday!

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, you are our joy.  Thank you for coming to earth for us.  What a truly amazing gift!  What good tidings of great joy!  May we know Your joy in the midst of our busyness, our preparations, our grieving and our frustrations.  Hold us close, Lord Jesus, for you are our joy.

Contributed by Ann Stevenson