Phil 4: 4,5, “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say, “REJOICE”. Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. “
Joyful, joyful we adore thee
God of glory Lord of love
Hearts unfold like flowers before thee
Opening to the sun above
Melt our hearts of sin and sadness
Drive the dark of doubt away
Giver of immortal gladness
Fill us with the light of day.
These words were penned by Henry Van Dyke in 1907 in a poem called “Ode to Joy” and set to the tune of Beethoven’s last symphony, “Hymn of Joy”. It is as joyful a melody as you can imagine in this life and I find myself singing it regularly during this season of Advent.
In Luke 2: 6,7 it says, “While they (Mary and Joseph) were there (Bethlehem), the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger.” Who among us can deny the joy of announcing a child is born to us? If you have children, do you remember waiting to tell someone that you were having a baby or that you were expecting a grandchild? The joy is evident in the way we tell others.
I longed for a good father-son relationship growing up. When I held my first born, a son, I felt all the possibilities in the world; a healing had begun in my spirit. My very first words to my son as I held him in my arms were, “We’re going to be best friends someday.” What JOY there is in announcing a birth. As a matter of fact the angels appeared in the very next scene with this pronouncement: “Behold I bring you good tidings of GREAT JOY.” It was like the extended family telling everyone the good news. And they SANG.. JOY was everywhere. Did you know that singing is one of the most joyous expressions we know?
This type of joy is not just a reflection of the moment. It is a reflection of God. Do you know that God experiences emotion? He is a personality. He’s not emotional. But to deny God’s emotions is to deny that he possesses personality. The Bible shows us he experiences anger (Ps 7:11; Deut 9:22),; laughter (Ps 37:13, 2:4), compassion (Ps 135:14, Judges 2:18), grief (Gen 6:6, Ps 78:40), and jealousy (Ex 20:5, 34:14) and others. He also experiences JOY. (Zeph 3:17, Is 62:5, Jeremiah 32:41).
The word “Joy” in the New Testament is “Chara”, which means, “inner gladness, delight or rejoicing. It’s always used to signify happiness based on spiritual realities independent of what happens. Do you see? Joy is not happiness. Happiness is based on what happens. Joy is an abiding sense of God’s spirit REGARDLESS of what happens. The Bible speaks of the joy we possess in Phil 4:4, 1, Thess 5: 6-8, Hebrews 12:2, and Rom 14:17, among others.
All of creation is joyful. Romans 1:20 says, “For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” One of the attirbutes in creation that reflects the attributes of the Creator is and should be JOY. Psalm 19:1,2 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God. The skies declare his handiwork. Day after day they pour forth speech. Night after night they reveal knowledge. Can you even imagine the sky on the night of Jesus’ birth. The star itself was a galactic testimony of JOY and good news.
Jesus was joyful. He portrays a picture of himself in Luke 15 as the shepherd who rejoices over one lost sheep. Bruce Marchiano, who played Jesus in a recent video series of Matthew’s Gospel, played the part using ‘joy’ as the character’s spine. He was a joyous Jesus. Hebrews 1:9 says Jesus was anointed with the oil of joy!
And the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians says that the Spirit is JOYFUL. My point? Ps 16:11 says, “IN His presence is fullness of JOY”. The FULLNESS of joy. The Trinity; FATHER, SON, and SPIRIT, are all characterized by joy. Creation is joyful. What about us? What should be an identifiable marking of every Christian? You guessed it….JOY.
In the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25), Jesus said that the Master of the house rewarded the faithful servants and said, “You have been faithful in the small things, there fore I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into your master’s happiness (JOY) prepared for you since the beginning of time.” Hebrews 12:2 even says that Jesus endured the cross for the JOY set before him. There is not doubt that heaven will be filled with JOY as we abide in the Kingdom of God and the presence of the Holy Trinity. Heaven is certainly going to be a joyful place..
During the events of that first Christmas, the Bible says that Mary pondered all these things in her heart. No doubt these expressions of joy were a great blessing. But just a few verses later, in the same chapter, Luke talks about an event that happens at the Temple. A prophet named Simeon, who has been promised to see the Messiah, warns her that a ‘sword shall pierce your soul, also.” What parent can’t relate to that? They say children step on your toes when they’re young, but as they grow, they step on your heart; Once a parent, always a parent. And you can be assured that your kids will bring you some grief. Joy and sadness go together, just like the movie “Inside Out” so wonderfully portrayed. (Even if you never seen Pixar’s Inside Out, I recommend it.) The Bible says, “Consider it all (pure) JOY when you suffer trials of many kinds…” Trust in God and His purposes for your life bring not only brings peace. It brings joy.
The christian will go through trials and tribulations and even the dark night of the soul. Seasons are biblical. Emotionally-healthy spirituality understands that you won’t always be happy. But joy is abiding. If you don’t have joy, you need to stop and reflect. Meditate. Where am I in my walk with Christ? Is this a dark night of the soul where God is refining my faith in a fire. (If you’re wanting to know more about this biblical reality, I recommend the book, “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” by Peter Scazzero.) Am I practicing the disciplines necessary to be in God’s presence. It is there that I find joy, even fullness of joy. Is there something about this season in my life that God wants to reveal that will build my character and extend his purposes in me? Remember in Psalm 51:12 that David says ‘restore to me the JOY of my salvation.” This was his cry during the dark night of his soul.
For many, Advent is not a joyous time. The loss of loved ones or tragedy or the dysfunction of life and family gatherings make it difficult. If grief has stolen your joy during this season, I encourage you to get counsel or seek help or look outward and not inward in regards to this lost sense of joy. While sadness and happiness may not coexist, joy and sadness can. Let the anointing of JOY cover you this blessed season.