Remember Christmases as a kid? Rehearsing and rehearsing and finally performing in the Christmas pageant. Excited about playing with cousins you hadn’t seen in a year. Looking forward to the coconut cake your grandmother ALWAYS made, especially for you. Sneaking downstairs early Christmas morning to see if Santa (or whoever) had made good on your wish list. Do you remember Christmases as a kid with J. O. Y.? The delight was probably as much about expectations as it was in the fulfillment.
But what if you got the part of a sheep instead of the angel in the pageant? If the cousins took a ski trip instead of coming to see you? If Grandma made a crummy fruit cake instead of the coconut, and you HATE fruit cake? If Santa (or whoever) gave you underwear instead of retro basketball shoes, and that’s just lame?
Sure, there are times it’s a little hard to have J. O. Y. Just think about the people of Israel for a minute. God had promised them a Messiah. One who would save them from their oppressors, one who would rule the earth, one powerful enough to set everything that was wrong, right.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this (Isaiah 9:6-7, NIV).
So the people waited. And waited. And waited. In fact, not only was the Messiah taking His time, but they hadn’t heard from God either. More than 400 hundred years passed from the time of Malachi, the last prophet mentioned in the Old Testament, till the birth of Jesus. Four hundred forty-six years, to be precise. Scholars call that the intertestamental period, the period of time in which, presumably, there was “no prophet in Israel.” What would that be like, not hearing from God in generations? Would you wonder if God had abandoned you, outright forgotten you, or at least forgotten His promise?
Do not be angry beyond measure, O Lord; do not remember our sins forever. Oh, look upon us, we pray, for we are all your people. Your sacred cities have become a desert; even Zion is a desert, Jerusalem a desolation. Our holy and glorious temple, where our fathers praised you, has been burned with fire, and all that we treasured lies in ruins. After all this, O Lord, will you hold yourself back? Will you keep silent and punish us beyond measure? (Isaiah 64:9-12, NIV).
Would the seeming silence from God, not to mention the Jews’ trying circumstances, spike your expectations, dim your happiness, inhibit your gladness, at least a little? Would it raise worrisome doubts in your mind?
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness (2 Peter 3:9, NIV).
And then God’s promise started to reveal itself. A childless couple discovered they were going to have a baby. Someone who would not only be a delight to his parents, but would be great in God’s eyes, making ready a bunch of people waiting for the Lord to show up. His name would be John.
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 what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished (Luke 1:44, NIV).
A young woman accepted the fact that nothing is impossible with God, that she (of all people!) would be the Savior’s mother.
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11, NIV).
Shepherds spread the good news of Jesus’ birth, rejoicing all the way.
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32, NIV).
And a man whose time had come got to hold the baby Savior in his arms, knowing that things were being made right and his dearest hope had been fulfilled. Talk about J. O. Y.
That’s what’s coming up in December in 252 Basics: a look at joy, which is finding a way to be happy, even when things don’t go your way.
You can have joy because God keeps His promises. (The birth of John the Baptist, Luke 1.)
You can have joy because anything is possible with God. (Gabriel appears to Mary, Luke 1.)
You can have joy because God sent His Son. (Jesus is born, Luke 2.)
You can have joy because God has a plan to make things right. (Jesus and Simeon, Luke 2.)
So let’s party. Because every day should be a party.
Peace and J. O. Y.,
Melanie WilliamsEditor in chief252 Basics The reThink Groupmwilliams@rethinkgroup.org
By Melanie Williams. © 2010 The reThink Group * www.rethinkgroup.org * All rights reserved. Used by permission