Read: Luke 2:8-20, Isaiah 35:1-10, 1 Peter 1:6-9, Romans 5:1-11
The parched ground will become a pool, and springs of water will satisfy the thirsty land. Marsh grass and reeds and rushes will flourish where desert jackals once lived. And a great road will go through that once deserted land… Lions will not lurk along its course, nor any other ferocious beasts. There will be no other dangers… Those who have been ransomed… will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness. Isaiah 35: 7-10 NLT
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Luke 2:10 ESV
So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while… So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:6-9 NLT
When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time… and since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ… now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God. Romans 5:6-11 NLT
Just the other day I was reminded of a past Christmas, when my littlest had sat down to play an unrecognizable song on the guitar, which wasn’t surprising seeing as he didn’t know how to play at the time. He asked me whether I had heard him playing “Jingle Bells” to which I replied that while I had heard him playing something, I hadn’t been able to recognize the song as such. He responded by saying that “there had been a problem” because “the tune was broken.”
How interesting! He was able to recognize that there was a problem, something wasn’t right, broken if you will, but he misidentified the source of the brokenness. It was the tune which was indeed broken, but only as a result of his deficient skill, competency, and experience. He recognized that there was a tune he wanted to play, but didn’t understand that in his current state he was absolutely unable to play it rightly, try as he might.
I was reminded of my own inability to readily identify personal sin or humanity’s sin nature and spiritual death as the root of brokenness in the world around me. How often do we all attempt to “fix” the brokenness by changing our tune? We endeavor in self sufficiency to solve the spiritual problem with physical solutions which leave us wanting more and lacking joy. The world is full of problems and while we should seek to meet the physical needs, there are deeper spiritual needs requiring our attention too. Mainly, we are actually completely UNABLE to help ourselves and often can’t even recognize that we are the the root of the problem – our broken world is a result of our sin, personal and collective. We want to continue in our sin to solve the “problem” on our own, apart from acknowledging the Saviour who humbly entered our world to initiate a rescue plan that we are absolutely unable to accomplish without him because we are dead in a spiritual sense.
During the Christmas season we are often confronted directly with the needs of the brokenhearted and it’s at this time of year we pay attention to offering assistance. Why do we bother? Maybe because our hearts recognize the good news of great joy for ALL people that the angel announced so very long ago.
In no way, do I want to minimize the dark places of tribulation that many face today. I am walking with friends in grief due to loss, death, failing health, broken relationships, heartache, disappointments, addictions, and struggles. Not to mention the challenges of homelessness, displacement, poverty, oppression, prejudice. People are dealing with difficult things, exacerbated by the fact that this time of year is marketed as abundance, wonder, and happiness – picture perfect Norman ‘Rockwellian’.
Conversations this past week turned my attention to the season of Advent in which we sit. There’s a darkness in the waiting – there was long ago when people longed for a saviour to break through the silence and darkness (Isaiah 9:2, 42:7, Matthew 4:16, Luke 1:79) and there is today, too, while we wait for Christ’s second Advent.
As I chatted with some of my believing friends about embracing Advent, we talked about entering into the hard places physically, emotionally and spiritually. As recipients of Christ’s salvation, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, concepts which culminate in Christmas, we were able to find joy in beholding the good news literally delivered to us the night that baby Jesus was born. It’s Jesus himself who deals with our sin problem and equips us to play the song rightly – the way it’s meant to be heard and recognized as his song. Joy to the World – redeemed and restored – blessings abound where curse was found.
Today I participated in a tour of, and serving in, an organization that offers disaster relief assistance and Christmas gifting to children around the world. I was impacted by the large scale brokenness of a fallen world – physical needs and spiritual needs. Hurting, displaced, oppressed people in need of a home and salvation. Both can be found not in a Christmas season, but in the Christ of Christmas, who will return, revealing himself to the whole world – that every knee should bow and every tongue confess him as Lord to the glory of God (Philippians 2:10,1). As I watched a video of children living in extreme circumstances receiving Christmas gifts in the name of Jesus and laugh and grin with exuberance, I, too, was overcome with joy.
While we don’t see him now, face to face, we remember in the dark waiting of Advent that he entered our darkness to shine a light and make us lights to the world while we await his return, trusting and hoping with inexpressible and glorious joy not in the circumstance of darkness but in spite of it. And we continue to long for the day Isaiah foretold when we the ransomed will enter the holy city with joy that will never end for sorrow and mourning will no longer be. So, now, we shine, lights in the darkness, revealing the way, repeating the sounding joy until no more sin or sorrows grow. Good news! Great JOY!