“I am bringing you good news of great joy” (Luke 2: 9)
“Joy” is not the same as “happiness.” The angels spoke about joy a lot. But those heavenly messengers weren’t there to promise “happily ever after.”
- Zechariah and Elizabeth heard the astounding news that they would soon be parents
- Gabriel spoke to Mary, delivering life-changing news
- The angel army (heavenly host) broadcast the Good News with songs of praise
They were all announcing joy – but not necessarily “happiness.”
Reality has a habit of getting in the way. Think of the shepherds and the magi. They briefly worshiped this new-born king, but then had to return to their daily obligations. Christmas joy does not guarantee a worry-free life or a dreamy existence of luxury.
Somehow the angels failed to mention that. They also didn’t say anything about the horror that was awaiting the little town of Bethlehem, so peaceful on that silent night, but which would soon witness the carnage of every toddler in the county.
The angels, I suspect, could see beyond the events of Christmas night. They must have known that
- John the Baptist would endure a life of deprivation and hardship
- John would spend extensive time in Herod’s prison
- John’s life would end brutally with his beheading
Surely those angels realized that
- Jesus, this beloved child, would be deserted by those who loved him
- Jesus would be betrayed
- Jesus would be crucified
Yet the angels sang of joy on that starry night.
When people are disappointed by Christmas or feel somehow that this over-hyped holiday doesn’t (can’t) meet their expectations, it’s because too often they think “Christmas” is about being “happy.”
We were not promised that we would be “happy.” Christmas was never meant to be trite.
The gift is joy.
- Joy is strength that meets the pain and anguish of this world head-on.
- Joy says that God sees the darkness and offers light.
- Joy breaks through sorrow and sadness to remind us we are not alone.
“Joy to the world, the Lord has come!”
God is Emmanuel, always with us.
And that can bring us joy.