By: Dustin Walters
Advent brings great joy to the Christian and the church. This is the season in which we reflect on the Messiah’s first appearance and eagerly anticipate his return. In this post, we will reflect on the joy of Advent. Just like the other themes of hope, faith, love, and peace, joy is a central theme of the Christian understanding of the season. Scripture is replete with references to the joy connected to the Messiah’s rule and reign.
Good News of Great Joy
“Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
Luke 2:10-11 NKJV
This message was proclaimed to the lowly shepherds at time when the people had not heard an audible prophetic voice in centuries. The fact that God chose to reveal the Messiah’s birth to shepherds reveals His heart for unlikely people. The context of this message is fascinating, but the content is gripping to the total personality.
The angel recognized the fear of these shepherds before he explained his appearance. It is no surprise that every time angels appear in the Bible, they instruct people not to be afraid. They do stand before the throne day and night, after all. The angel of the Lord instructed these shepherds to be encouraged on account of the message proclaimed.
The message of the Gospel is the truth that the people who once sat in darkness have now seen a great light. The people held under captivity to sin and selfishness are set free through the Messiah. Jesus came to set captives free and bring us back to God. For these and so many other scriptural reasons, we can take joy this Christmas. We can have joy, no matter our circumstances because our God keeps his promises. There is a difference in joy and happiness though.
Joy and Happiness: A Distinction
Happiness is often related to our circumstances. Happiness is a feeling of joy, but it is not joy itself. Joy is based on unchanging reality, whereas happiness is only an expression of a reality which is directly impacted by circumstances. Christians are a people of joy. You will recall that joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit given to all believers.
This does not mean that we ignore difficult or painful emotions. We recognize that everyday is not a Friday, despite what some popular televangelists preach. We are a people who face the challenges and adversities. We are a people who grieve, but not like those who grieve without hope. We maintain joy because we trust the character and goodness of God. Even on the worst days, when the account balance dips, when there is relational hurt, when things just don’t go our way, we can have joy. Christian joy is rooted in the person and work of Christ. We can be joyful even if we do not feel happy at the moment.
Joy and the Messiah
It is easy for us to lose cite of the meaning of Christmas in our fast-paced, consumeristic, and dog-eat-dog world. We must intentionally reorient our hearts, minds, and wills around the truth of the Gospel.
The reason we celebrate joy during advent is because our only hope is for outside rescue. We cannot fix ourselves. We cannot clean our act up and just be better people. We cannot simply elect certain people to solve all the world problems, like school shootings, broken families, and financial stress. We need a Messiah. Our Messiah is Jesus, and he has come. He has come to remove the curse. Jesus reverses the curse of the Fall. That alone should compel us to cultivate joy as we wait for our Messiah to return. (Revelation 22:3)
The joy of Christmas is directly related to the story of the Gospel. The message about the Messiah truly is good news of great joy to you and me. What has stolen your joy dear reader? Bring whatever that is to Jesus today. Ask the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to renew your joy this Christmas. He is faithful and good. He is all we need.