Advent Series Day 24: spontaneous joy

Life holds many great moments. Moments of beauty, of wonder, of excitement, of victory, of love. In these moments, no one has to tell us to feel something.

No one has to tell a groom that he should be happy to see his bride walk down the aisle. No one has to tell tourists to the Grand Canyon that they should take pictures of what is in front of them. No one has to tell sports fans that they should cheer when their team wins.

No one has to tell a college student that he should be excited when his last exam is finished. No one has to tell a mother that she should smile when she holds her newborn baby in her arms.

True joy is spontaneous.

There was true joy the night of Jesus’ birth.

It’s interesting to me that so many of our sacred Christmas songs are slow and reflective. There is definite value to that. In fact, some of my personal favorites  are slow. (Anyone else adore the song O Holy Night?)

But sometimes, I think these songs give the wrong impression. They give the impression that we need to create our own joy at Christmas. That for solemn reflection we look to the church, and for lighthearted joy, we look to the world. That without Santa, and decorations, and presents, there would be no joy at Christmas.

We forget that the first song of Christmas, the song of the angels, was a song of great joy.

When Jesus was born, heaven burst into applause.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. – Luke 2:8-20

All of heaven and earth had been waiting for this night. Waiting for thousands of years for the Messiah to come.

I love the word “suddenly” in this passage. It makes me think that the heavenly host couldn’t help it. They could hold back no longer. It was time for them to release their joy and burst into praise.

Why is this such a joyful moment?

Because the birth of Jesus brings not only a baby, it brings gifts. The gift of a world rescued. The gift of grace. The gift of promises fulfilled.  The gift of God's presence with us. The gift of hearts and lives at peace. The gift of answered prayer. The gift of forgiveness. The gift of eternal life.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. -  John 3:16

The time of waiting is over. The Messiah has come.

JOY to the world.