Two more weeks ‘til Christmas! Does that fill you with panic or joy or a little bit of both?!
This week of Advent, we reflect on the idea of joy. There are two books in the Bible that tell the Christmas story of baby Jesus—Matthew and Luke. The word “joy” only appears a few times in the whole book of Matthew, but it appears about a dozen times in Luke. Several of those instances come in the stories surrounding Jesus’ birth.
The first “joy” reference shows up before we get to the birth of Jesus. It’s actually about the birth of Jesus’ relative, John. The angel Gabriel appears to John’s father, Zechariah, and says:
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. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord….16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 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, NIV)
Gabriel’s proclamation of what Zechariah’s son will do gives us many reasons for joy.
- A couple will give birth to a son as an answer to their prayers; that’s a reason for joy.
- Many people of Israel will return to the Lord their God; that’s a reason for joy.
- Parents’ hearts will turn to their children; that’s a reason for joy.
- The disobedient will turn to the wisdom of the righteous; that’s a reason for joy.
This story may have happened 2,000 years ago, and it might include a supernatural angelic being, Gabriel, who talks. But otherwise, this story has everything to do with my life and your life here and now. Everything in that list above that was a reason for joy then is still a reason for joy now.
For example, for years I prayed for friends to have a baby, just like Elizabeth and Zechariah prayed. This Christmas, I am one of many rejoicing that God has heard our prayers and given us a sweet, smiley, giggly Baby Ella Grace. And, now, I ask God to bless some other friends with such a marvelous gift of joy and delight.
- Has God heard and answered a prayer of yours this year? Have you rejoiced because of it?
- Is there a precious baby who gives you a reason for joy?
- Is there a friend who you can remember in prayer as they await a baby?
Gabriel tells Zechariah that his son will “bring back many of the people…to the Lord their God. And he will…turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous.”
- Do you know someone who has returned to God or church or a righteous lifestyle this year? Have you rejoiced because of it?
- Is there a friend or loved one who’s living apart from God, who is pursuing disobedience, who could use your prayers?
- Do you know a parent who is broken-hearted or hard-hearted toward their child? Have you prayed for the child and the parent?
As we prepare for Christmas, let’s take the time to reflect and to remember what God has done this year that is cause for joy and rejoicing. Let’s also ask him to continue hearing our prayers, growing our families, and drawing people back to himself and his church.