“Behold, I bring you good news of great joy” (Luke 2:10)
Not small joy. Not modest joy. But ‘great joy.’ ….the joy Jesus was bringing into the world was like no other kind in history. Once we have it, it cannot be destroyed. Jesus said, ‘No one will take your joy from you.’ (John 16:22).”
At our house, we have a 9’ Christmas tree in the living room, which I love, but this little ‘Joy’ tree, perched on the banister in our family room, where we hang out most of the time, brings about a joyful smile each time I switch on the lights.
When I was a child attending Sunday School, we sang a simple song:
What a wonderful way to spell JOY.
Now that I’m an all grown-up woman, these lyrics with childlike simplicity, capture what is known as the protos—most important—commandment of Christianity. Jesus, during his earthly ministry, said:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39 NIV)
JESUS: His birth as a babe came with the promise of great joy. Thirty-three years later, Jesus promised his disciples great joy that could not be taken away even during upcoming days, which he knew for his beloved friends would be filled with danger, darkness, loss and grief.
Authentic JOY would enable them to keep loving GOD!
OTHERS: During his time of ministry, Jesus not only taught, but illustrated “Love for your neighbor…” All humankind, despite ethnicity, social status, even sinfulness, are my neighbors. Some of those ‘others’ will nurture, understand, encourage, support, and love me. Some will malign, misunderstand, criticize, betray and possibly, despise me.
Divine JOY empowers us to keep loving OTHERS!
Jesus showed us the love he demonstrated is counterintuitive to cultural and personal inclinations, which tend to create ‘us and them’ camps, insist on personal ‘rights,’ and cling to wrongs and resentments.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another… (John 13:34 NKJV)
YOU: You and I have been created in the image of God. Self-love built on that foundational truth leads to God-honoring self-awareness. Putting effort into personal growth that conforms us more and more into the character of Jesus is never a waste of time.
When we step into the absolute assurance of God’s unconditional love, we accept and love OURSELVES!
Joy isn’t dependent upon life’s circumstances. Joy is more often the choice to trust God, love others and be a good steward of my soul—body, emotions, thoughts, will and spirit—with which I’ve been entrusted.
May you be strengthened and encouraged by the Joy of Jesus this third week of Advent…
P. S. If you missed the additional Listening on the Journey… post on Tuesday, please check it out. Or, if you comment on this post, your name will be entered in the Christmastime giveaway.
- The Dawning of Indestructible Joy, Daily Readings for Advent, John Piper ↑