Sunday, December 13
I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
Joy is the traditional emphasis on this third Sunday of Advent, and years after that hillside experience, the Apostle Paul from a Roman prison exudes joy while writing to his distant Philippian friends. But is this merely an admonition to “suck it up” or “put on a happy face”? One source describes joy more convincingly as “a state of mind and orientation of the heart. It is a settled state of contentment, confidence and hope.”
Those sheep herders on Bethlehem hills were terrified when awakened by an angel. Scholars differ on the subject of shepherds’ place in society, but the reaction to an angel is indisputable: they were terrified. Have you ever awakened from a dream that seemed more real than reality? Or comforted a child screaming in the night? It’s no wonder that the angel immediately said, Do not be afraid…
The angel’s nighttime declaration first brought terror but concluded with promise: I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. All the people. Not just the wealthy and healthy. Not just the religious and right living. Not just the Democrats or Republicans, the white, brown, or black. The angel pronounced a radical wake-up call, a post-Eden re-adjustment to all of culture. I believe the shepherds were still weak kneed and stumbling as the skies filled with a great company of the heavenly host. This was a wake-up call beyond all others.
Matt Erickson comments: Sometimes, real joy requires a wake-up call. A study of people who had breakthroughs to greater meaning and joy in their lives…showed that these breakthroughs were often triggered by some form of psychological turmoil, such as stress, loss, or bereavement… C. S. Lewis writes in The Problem of Pain: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Difficulty, even suffering, can serve as a wake-up call to joy.
Are you experiencing a settled state of contentment, confidence and hope this Sunday? Could God be calling for a re-orientation of your heart?