Monday, December 12, 2016

The Words Of Advent - Joy

I just want to be happy.
When my circumstances change, I'll finally be happy.
If I only had that thing, that person or that position, I'd be happy.

Believe it or not, God never intended for us to be happy. Happiness is a feeling that comes and goes as the things around us and in us change. Being happy only last for a short while, making us feel good for the moment but not over the long haul.

During this third week of Advent, the Lord points us instead to His joy. Joy is not a feeling but a gift from God and a fruit of the Spirit. Happiness is fleeting, but His joy roots deep into our heart and stays there regardless of our circumstances.

There are more than 150 verses in Scripture that speak of the joy of the Lord. The first mention of joy in the New Testament describes the reaction of the wise men when they saw the star of Bethlehem.

When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. Matthew 2:10

After their long travels and facing the lying King Herod, they had now seen the star direct their path to the exact place where the young Christ child was. We can only imagine the joy - that deep rooted joy of the Lord - when they finally arrived at their destination. Being in His presence was the culmination of their journey, and they would now see Him face to face.

Happiness over this meeting would have vanished as soon as their gold, frankincense and myrrh had been unwrapped. Their joy at worshipping at His feet would last a lifetime.

On the night Christ was born, the angels appeared to the shepherds in the field while they cared for their sheep. The only light at this time in history was either the sun or a fire, so the glory of the Lord shining around them made them sore afraid. But the first words spoken by the angel changed everything.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. Luke 2:10

Not happiness. Not a little dash of joy here and there. The coming of Christ to this earth to be the savior of all men was the cause of great joy. The long-promised Messiah was here, and these common, ordinary shepherds were hearing the news in a miraculous way. The joy of the Lord would change their lives forever.

After visiting the newborn King, their joy was so great that it filled their cups to overflowing. They made it known abroad, everywhere they went, that they had seen the Savior of the world. They had heard the truth, saw Him in person and just had to tell everyone they knew that the prophecies had been fulfilled.

If they had simply been happy, they would have gone about their daily lives unchanged. Their joy at meeting the Messiah would last a lifetime.

In the hours before His arrest, Jesus Christ spent time in prayer, talking to His heavenly Father about the events that were about take place. He prayed for Himself, of course, but most of the prayer was for the disciples and the church. In His last moments of His life, He interceded for the believers that He would soon be leaving.

And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. John 17:13

Christ didn't leave happiness behind for us to feed on occasionally. He didn't ask God to spread a little happiness around so the disciples could be comforted. What He did pray for was joy fulfilled - His joy and nothing else. His joy would keep them buoyed in a world that would hate them and reject them as they had hated and rejected Him.

In this Christmas season, we can share in the joy of the Lord and celebrate His birth. We can experience great joy and exceeding great joy knowing the Son of God Himself came into our world and walked among us. But the joy fulfilled comes when we put His birth into perspective. He didn't come to earth to make us happy or so we could have a Christmas party once a year. He became flesh and walked the earth so He could die for the sins of the world.

Joy comes when we understand that the baby we place in the manger on Christmas day would take our sins upon Himself so we could be reconciled to God. What joy unspeakable our Savior gives to us.

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