Small children are good at joy. When we toss a child into the air and catch him, what will he say as soon as he stops giggling? “Do it again!” And again! And again!
G.K. Chesterton writes about how this joy points to God’s joy: “Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we,” (Orthodoxy).
We have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. Yes, we have sinned, and we have been sinned against, and the anxieties of life weigh on us. We know too much. We grow up, and grow old, and our capacity for joy erodes.
But underneath we long for that elusive joy. The secret of the human heart is that we crave joy most of all. Everything else we want—love, security, significance, peace, a vacation, a house—we want not for itself but for the joy in it.
The Angels Announce the Advent of Joy
The night Jesus was born, a multitude of angels appeared. “Behold,” the first angel announced to the shepherds, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord,” (Luke 2:10-11).
Why will the birth of this baby cause great joy? Because he is the savior.
Picture this. You live in a world where chaos, darkness, pain, and death threaten everything. The ruler of your world is a horror. And you, implicated in its evils, cannot escape the destruction coming to wipe this world away.
You have heard there is another realm where goodness, beauty, and love rule. In that world, it is impossible to find a speck of injustice, life is good and lasts forever, and the Ruler is so glorious that to look upon Him is to know infinite joy. But there is no path from your world to that one; you cannot escape.
Now picture someone comes in great love, and with an unthinkable personal sacrifice, carves a path for you to walk—forgiven and clean—into the other realm; you can enjoy that delightful kingdom and its King forever. Imagine your joy.
That’s the story of Christmas: the Savior has come. There is now a way. Someone came not to mock, but to fulfill our childhood desire for endless joy.
He came the first time to tear down the wall of sin between God and mankind, making us ready for His second coming. Then, He will do away with all that is wrong and take His place as the Beautiful King (Isaiah 9:1-8). And we, because of his first coming, will be able to live with him where there is “fullness of joy,” (Psalm 16:11). This is the JOY of Advent.
Taking Joy to Heart
◊ If we don’t hear of Jesus’ birth with joy this Christmas, it may be because worries or evils weigh down on us or because we are distracted by lesser things we trust to give us joy.
◊ If you are weighed down, ask the Lord to show you how the gift of His Son offers you joy even in the midst of heaviness, sorrow, or worry.
◊ If you are distracted, C.S. Lewis says: “Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased,” (The Weight of Glory). Ask the Lord if you are “too easily pleased.” What do you trust this Christmas to give you just a little joy? How can the gift of Jesus lift your eyes from “mud pies” to infinite joy?
◊ Spend time thanking God for Jesus. Thank Him for the hope of His perfect, beautiful Kingdom.
A Prayer for Joy this Advent
If you find joy elusive this Advent, you may make this your daily prayer this week:
Father, the psalmist calls you his “exceeding joy” (Psalm 34:4). The angels announced Jesus’ birth as a “great joy” (Luke 2:10). And you, Father, have a heart full of joy (John 15:11). But “I have sinned and grown old,” and my capacity for joy, even as you offer me your Son, is so diminished that I feel hardly happy, let alone joyful. Please give me your Holy Spirit and fill me with “all joy.” (Romans 15:13). Enlarge my capacity for joy so I can rejoice in the gift of your Son: “I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart,” (Psalm 119:32).
Thanks for these thoughts and for the much needed reminder.