This post is #3 in a series of Advent devotionals. To read #2 and for a link to the first, see this post.
For the third week of Advent, I spent a lot of time contemplating joy. Traditionally, joy is the theme for this week, but much of the story of the nativity doesn’t really invite joy, does it? Herod was scared, scary, and dangerous. Mary was pregnant and could have been ordered stoned to death by Joseph; no doubt she endured a lot of scorn and derision from the community and perhaps even her parents. Poor Joseph must have been treated as a cuckold.
And it was tax season. Where is the joy in that?
Well, a few people in the middle of the story knew the truth, and in that truth, there was great joy. Mary tells the angel of the Annunciation, “Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Can you imagine the faith and trust behind that statement? It always makes me shiver when I read it. Then there’s Elizabeth, Mary's aunt, whose unborn son jumped in her womb with joy in the presence of the pregnant Mary. Their welcome of her prompts Mary to say, “[M]y spirit rejoices in my Savior.” The angels shared “good news of great joy” with the shepherds, and the shepherds passed it on. The three wise men “were filled with joy.”
But every time joy is celebrated, it’s balanced with fear and danger and ominous foreboding. Simeon praises the child Jesus but then tells Mary, “…a sword will pierce your own soul, too.” The wise men visit and give great gifts (one of which was associated with death and embalming), and then Joseph has a dream warning him to flee to Egypt.
And it was tax season. Did I mention that?
Right now, we live in a world where fear and panic and crisis threaten to overwhelm us. We worry about job security, retirement funds, war, mortgages, politics, taxes, and even celebrity infidelity. All of these (well, except the celebrity infidelity) are very real worries for many of us. The story of the nativity, however, is at least in part a story of the joy that comes through faith even when the world is unpleasant or even downright dangerous.
My wish for us all this season and in the coming year is a wish for joy. What gives you joy? How do you find joy when life gets tough? How can you share it with others?