Sunday, December 18, 2022

Fourth Sunday of Advent - Joy

As I look back at my life, I realize there were a lot of lessons I learned about life. Some of those lessons came at a very high price while others seemed to continue to teach me lessons. One such lesson is the birth of my own daughter. The first thing I learned from that birth is that joy can come from such a small package and that, over time, that joy got bigger and bigger as she grew up.

Many look for joy to come in big packages. When the lottery gets to over a billion dollars, there are many that believe that would bring them great joy. Buying a new car is another one that people believe would bring them great joy. All of the large packages can’t compare to the joy of a small child that is helpless and totally dependent on everything you do. 

There were so many times during her life that I did things for her to bring her joy. I remember taking her outside for a walk in front of our old home in Austin, Texas. She loved to run up and down the sidewalk. It was such a little thing but it brought joy to both of us. I would follow her as she ran ahead of me. 

Although I’m not a big fan of the commercialization of Christmas, there is one thing that does bring me joy. Seeing her sitting near the Christmas tree and opening presents is still a great joy for me. She may know what is under the tree for her, but the look of surprise and joy is worth the effort.
The lesson I have learned is also worth the effort. Joy really does come in small packages and that larger joy comes during special moments. They may be fewer and farther between, but they are still there if you look for them. 

The American author, Wilferd Arlan Peterson, once wrote, “It is looking for the joys that come in small, precious packages and making the most of them, knowing that big packages of joy are few and far between.”

Joy does come in small, precious packages and we truly need to make the most of them. As my daughter grew up, my joy in seeing her take her steps to adulthood grew with each passing day. I have been so blessed by God to see those moments. Sometimes, I have taken that joy for granted and just assumed it would be there, but when you face tragedy or some other horrible situation, it snaps you back to reality and you look again for that joy.

As we approach Christmas Day, we see the joy of a small child in a manger who came not to judge the world, but to save it. That joy will never die or the story of his birth grow old. Many of you know that joyful story or, at least, have heard of it. Some find it an amusing fairy tale passed down from generation to generation. To those, the joy isn’t there. They don’t see or understand it. They can only see the holiday and not the true meaning of his birth.

Late one night in a small town so far away, a small child lying in a manger brought great joy to the world and filled it with light and love. His birth had been foretold by prophets and many people continued to believe that his birth would happen. Although many did not live to see that birth, they still continued to believe in his birth and the joy he would bring. That joy could not be simply wiped away or shelved as a fairy tale. 

After waiting so long for the birth, a small cry came out of a stable as he came into the world. Although there were no trumpets or royal announcements, the joy was announced in the best and most meaningful way possible. A choir of angels announced his birth, but that announcement did not go to kings or leaders. That announcement was given to the simplest of all, the shepherds who watched over their flocks.

In chapter two of his Gospel, Luke writes, “That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. ‘Don’t be afraid!’ he said. ‘I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.’

Yes. That small package of joy that was foretold by prophets hundreds of years before came into the world. I cannot even imagine the joy that they felt. I am sure some of them may have known of the prophecy and there must have been chatting among them. Excitement filled their hearts. Just as they were about to go, they heard something wonderful come from a choir of angels.

Luke continues, “Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.’ When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’

The shepherds, upon arriving, beheld the Christ child in a stable. Joy continued to swell in their hearts as they dropped to their knees in silent reverence. The child would one day grow up and be the Savior of the world. He would take on the sins of all generations and allow himself to be the perfect lamb for the atonement sacrifice.

As we continue our journey to that blessed day, remember that joy does not have to come in big packages. It comes in small ones and that joy grows with each passing day. Along the way, there are moments of great joy that come. The first one is accepting the gift of salvation and proclaiming to the world the acceptance of Jesus as your personal Savior and Lord. Each day you walk with him is a joy and that joy, whether big or small, is awesome and will remain in your heart from day to day.

Each day is a joy and you should share it with others. Joy cannot be confined or remain in one heart. It exists to be shared daily. When we share that joy with others, we can stand firm in His grace. 

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

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