"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Joyful News

When you think of joy, what comes to mind? Receiving that hard earned diploma? Scoring those winning points? Your wedding day? The birth of a child? Certainly happy feelings overflow for most people on such "joyous occasions." God must be a fan of joy, judging by the fact that "joy" and its derivatives are used almost 250 times in the New Testament (NIV). Differing from happiness, biblical joy is evident even when circumstances do not go the way we had hoped.

The angels announcement to the shepherds (perhaps among the most unlikely recipients of divine revelation at the time) was not a theological treatise on justification and the state of man. Rather it was a declaration of joy, peace, good will, and favor:

But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord...Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests. Luke 2:10-11, 14

The joyous message the heavenly messengers brought from the throne room of God to smelly, asocial men who kept the flocks by night, was this. "I love you. Watch how much." The babe in a manger was more than a lovable infant. He grew to live a perfect life and showed us how to live and, more than that, he gave up his perfect life so that we can be reconciled with God. The angels announced the birth of the Reconciler. The vast chasm between God's holiness and our fallen state was about to be bridged. If that isn't reason for joy, I don't know what is.

The apostle Paul lived in the glow of such joy. His life circumstances were anything but pleasant. His plans, even those to further the gospel, were often frustrated and, he owned little to nothing in this world. His thanks for all of his efforts, as far as the world was concerned, was imprisonment and a martyr's death. Yet he spoke often of joy, and in the second chapter of Philippians, had this to say about it:

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Philippians 2:1-2

Paul's joy was firmly anchored in the promises of God. He lived in a state of freedom from sin, freedom from legalism, and freedom from despondency. He knew who he was in Christ, his inheritance, and his ultimate destination. His joy was enhanced by the faithfulness and unity of those to whom he ministered. This unity is made possible by the good news brought by the angels long ago. Not only did Jesus come to redeem us for eternity, but also to redeem us from selfish, petty differences as we walk along our path to intimacy with God and others.

Receive the good news of great joy with gladness this year. Rejoice for the eternity that awaits you if you have believed in Jesus. Let that joy reverberate in your life and relationships. Make Jesus' joy complete by fulfilling his command (love one another).  Lay down your grievances and take the hand of the person next to you. Look one another in the eye and say: "I love you. Watch how much."


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