Joy to the world!

posted in: Ponderings | 0

The final Advent candle points to joy. The birth of the Savior was a joyous one. Even angels celebrated. This season should be joyous for us as well, but often we are caught up in the busy-ness of the season. Too many parties or school programs we feel obligated to attend. Shopping squeezed in after work. Worry about the budget or paying for all we purchased. Some families don’t want to get together because difficulties from the past still fester and wounds are not healed. Some have lost a loved one and this is the first Christmas without that person so grief weighs heavily. Some fight depression because they are alone for the holidays. Social media posts tend to intensify the feeling of lack. Sadly, so much saps our joy.

Matthew’s record of the wise men’s visit may help us. Who were these wise men? Do our nativity scenes and Christmas pageants accurately portray them? Matthew doesn’t give much detail. Wise men came from the East. The East likely refers to the vast Babylonian empire. That area where Jews had been exiled and their treasures confiscated. The related Hebrew word is used for Pharoah in Genesis 41 and again in early chapters of Exodus. Daniel was enlisted as one of the wise men under Nebuchadnezzer. These men were wise, skilled, perhaps cunning, probably powerful members of the king’s court. I wonder if they were happy in their lives among royalty. Did the opulence they were privileged to have give them real joy? Were they constantly under threat of losing their heads if they couldn’t answer the king? Like those Daniel 2 or those in Esther 1?

They had followed a star, but did they fully grasp its meaning, or were they looking for an earthly king? When the wise men found the Christ child, they quickly had an answer. Even as a child, Jesus’ presence must have conveyed the significance and power of who He was. I imagine the conversation that must have occurred. Did Joseph protectively ask questions of those who came to see his family? Did he then tell the wise men about the dreams? Did Mary share her visit by angels and the events of her trip to see Elizabeth? Wonder and awe grew as the group pondered all this. How God directed Joseph and Mary and provided. How God directed wise men to come. Their gifts were of great value. Did God even provide financially for their escape and livelihood in Egypt until they could return? Wonder and awe.

The star was part of a story of God’s plan to rescue humanity from the control and power of the lies and deceptions satan feeds us, from the accusations and condemnation he piles on us. God wants to rescue us and hold us up during this season in which we easily lose focus. He wants to draw us back to His presence. Right now, we can pause and simply tell Jesus we need Him. We need His peace. We need hope restored. We need to be reminded of how much He loves us. We need some joy.

The wise men saw the Child; they understand the significance of what God offered. And that brought unrestrained joy. And when they saw the star, they were so ecstatic that they shouted and celebrated with unrestrained joy. Matthew 2:10 (TPT)

What did God offer us because Christ came? Redemption. In the Old Testament it involves rescue by paying a price. In the New Testament “redeem” is even more powerful. It means to “rescue from loss and to improve opportunities.” Whatever the past has been, we get a do-over. With God, nothing is ever lost. He never forgets the purpose He had for our lives. And the Savior came to ensure those opportunities are restored. Restored from where we are this very minute in all our frazzled mess.

Ponder part of the words to the Christmas hymn, Joy to the World in verses 1, 3 and 4.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King!
Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room,
and heav’n, and heav’n and nature sing.
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
far as, far as the curse is found.
He rules the world with truth and grace,
and makes the nations prove
the glories of His righteousness
and wonders, wonders of His love.

He comes to make His blessings flow in your life. He rules, not with tyrannical power, but in truth and grace. Truth about who He really is. Truth about who He says you really are. So that the wonders of His love abound.

The words of the hymn, Just As I Am, have touched many lives since it was written. Just as I am. Busy. Depressed. Hurting. Grief-stricken. Angry. Rejected. Lonely. Frazzled. Just as you are. Right now.

Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come! I come!
Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt;
Fightings within, and fears without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!
Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind;
Yes, all I need, in Thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!
Just as I am, Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because Thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!
Just as I am, Thy love unknown
Has broken every barrier down;
Now, to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

The Savior came to invite you back to joy, back to His blessings over your life. We don’t have lavish gifts to bring, but He really just wants us in relationship with Him again. Friends. So He invites you to come, even with everything you may think He will reject. I assure you, He does not reject you for coming close just as you are. (photo via pixabay)

I have no words to describe the freedom and release that comes when I come just as I am. It’s in His presence that I have finally found real joy. You will find it too. Complete joy is in your presence…. Psalm 16:11 (GW)

I wish for you a Merry Christmas (or Hanukkah if that is your celebration).

 

Carol Boggess, author and speaker

Rivers – A Journey of Restoration From Broken to Breakthrough and God Sees Broken Hearts

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