I love this week. I think I love it so much because joy is something that can be so elusive in my life. With the busyness of life, the hardships, the broken body, on and on, it can be so hard to find the joy. Sometimes joy comes easily and other times joy is hard to find. But during this time of year, the joy is so easy to find. It’s in children’s eager faces, it’s in reunions with those who’ve been absent for a while, and it’s in the scripture we study. This part of the year is dedicated to joy, and this week, we get to focus on it.
Jesus’ first coming was filled with joy. We have more hymns about joy during this season than any other advent themed week. The first joy started with Zechariah and Elizabeth, when they were told that they would have a son, named John, who would herald in the Messiah. This couple was past child-bearing age and had not had any children. Not only would they now have a son, but he would be the one that would tell the world about the coming of the Messiah!
Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Luke 1:11-17 NIV
How much joy they must’ve felt, knowing that God answered their prayers in such a mighty way! But they were not the only couple getting some news! Mary, then Joseph, also found out that they were going to have a child. They were a little less full of joy because this pregnancy brought much hardship on them. They were yet to be married, so societal condemnation was brought upon them with this pregnancy. In fact, Joseph was going to call it off until an angel told him otherwise. However, the pregnancy wasn’t all hardship. Mary went to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, who was six months pregnant with John the Baptist.
At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
Luke 1:39-45 NIV
Did you see that?! John, in the womb, recognized that the Messiah was inside of Mary and leapt for joy!!! Then Elizabeth was filled with joy, given by the Holy Spirit. This joy then spread to Mary, who sang a song. When John the Baptist was born, Zechariah was filled with joy and sang a songas well! I love that songs are such an integral part of joy! And more singing was to come!
The shepherds were the first ones who were told that Jesus, the Messiah, was born. Not only were they told, but they got to witness angels filling the night with their singing! And after the shepherds went and saw baby Jesus, they too were singing praises!
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Luke 2:8-20 NIV
So much joy surrounding the birth of Jesus! Both on earth and in heaven. So much so, that heaven had an incredible amount of interaction with humans on earth. Angelic visits, the Holy Spirit moving, and singing choirs in the sky! There was so much joy that everyone, mortal and immortal, could only express themselves through singing! I love it.
As we go through this week, let us focus on the joy of this season. And share this joy with others.
Thank you for coming to earth and thank you for coming again in the future. It is amazing how much joy surrounded your earthly birth! Help me to celebrate your momentous arrival on earth. Help me find ways to share this joy with others. Often, I can forget the joy of this season because I am so busy getting everything done and making everything perfect. Help me find time to just sing my praises to you.
- What gives you joy today? Take a moment to thank God for it.
- What about Jesus’ first coming means the most to you? Praise God for it.