“When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished,” ~Luke 2:15-18 NLT
Remember when the school year was over and the freshly pressed yearbooks were being passed around for autographs? Amid the tension of “have a great summer” and “see you next year” there is one section of the yearbook that stands out. It’s the page of students voted for various traits such as “Most likely to succeed” “Most Athletic”, “Best Dressed” so on and so forth. If you looked close enough in my yearbook you’d find a Bieber haired Brad under the category of “Always Smiling.”
Smiling was kind of my thing. And because I was known for smiling I found myself constantly trying to align my outer expression with my inner experience.
Sure I had many times of happiness, but it was always something fleeting. More like a momentary dopamine release than a state of being. I had always considered myself to be joyful, but it took me encountering the love of Jesus to realize I’d never actually experienced true Joy. Happiness for sure, but not Joy.
Joy was this new thing that didn’t involve my own control and wasn’t dependent on others. I didn’t have to worry about holding it tightly for as long as I could. I didn’t have to work, build, or muster up strength to sustain it. Instead I found that Joy held on to me.
Jesus came to set us free from sin and to connect us with our creator. But the Joy that the Shepherds received in Luke 2 wasn’t due to their foresight of what was to come. Instead their Joy took deep root in the hope that is Jesus. They didn’t know how this child would bring them freedom, but they simply believed he would. This Hope for a future leads to a deep calming Peace in our hearts which then swells up in us a Joy which cannot be stifled by our circumstances. Joy isn’t denial of sorrow, disappointment, shame, guilt, anger, fear, grief, depression, anxiety. It’s instead a celebration of Christ’s eternal presence among them.
The same Joy which prompted the shepherds to tell “everyone” about what they’d just experienced is the same Joy that Jesus is inviting you and I into. The beauty before us is that we have a future home awaiting us. Therefore, we can rid our hearts of anxiety, depression and hopelessness because He is good. We can come before God with confidence in who He is and what he’s given us, what he’s yet to give us, and we can daily receive the eternal Joy that He extends. Joy that surpasses understanding given freely by a God who entered humanity in the most vulnerably human way.
Give your sorrows to him for we know that pain will have it’s end. Transfer your burdens to him for his shoulders are capable. Place your Hope in him for he is faithful in His promises. Remember that He came to give us life and life abundantly.
Let your Joy in Him renew every morning.
We’re grateful that you would enter into our hurting world to bring healing and restoration. We receive the Joy that is freely offered to us through true relationship with you. Teach us to trust you deeply. We let go of our relentless need to control, Our will to justify means to an end. We want to give you our full attention. Just as you so mercifully give us yours.
Remind us of the future you have for us, where there will be no more hurt or pain or sickness. Where you will wipe every tear from our eye. Where transparency is beautifully healing. Would you calm our anxious seas and depression filled fogs. And would you give us an undignified Joy to sustain us the rest of our days.