Darkness, poverty, fear, homelessness, tyranny, hatred, desperation. It is into this time that the outrageous announcement was made, “I bring you good news of great JOY.” The pronouncement was not made by a robed, human king on a jeweled throne nor by a boasting general leading well armed troops. No, it was an angel of God himself who spoke the words of joy. Soon that one angelic being was joined by others of the heavenly “congregation” as though just one wasn’t enough to break into earth’s darkness with the message of joy.
And the news was not given to power hungry representatives of earthly kingdoms. Nor to the educated or wealthy. Smelly, bearded shepherds—many the outcasts of society—“living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks by night,” they first heard the news of coming joy.
These shepherds were given instructions on how to find the embodiment of this joy: “Today…a Savior has been born to you, he is the Messiah, the Lord.” Another gospel writer identifies him further as “…Jesus (who) will save his people from their sins.”
The connection is complete: joy is coming; joy is found in Jesus; joy is experienced when we accept not only that he can and will save us from our sins, but also when we recognize that we need saving. Saving from ourselves and our impetuous and never-ending pursuit of producing our own brand of joy. Americans early learn that her citizens have “the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Many have discovered, however, that such pursuit without submission to the only One who promises—indeed, is—joy becomes a futile and fruitless quest.
Jesus told a story that succinctly describes the reaction in heaven when just one of us admits that the road to self fulfillment has been unsuccessful: …there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance. The road to joy means hearing the same message given to the shepherds. Then believing it enough to respond as did those shepherds: Let’s go see this thing that has happened…
Light the second Advent candle and ponder joy.