By Steve Gregg
As we’ve entered Advent season, our pastors are taking turns reflecting on the symbolism of the four candles of the Advent Wreath. This coming Sunday, we will light the fourth candle representing “joy."
Joy is a word that we use often around Christmastime. From the songs we sing (Joy to the World), to the Christmas story we hear retold ("And the angel said to them, 'Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people'" Luke 2:10), we are surrounded by the claim that this time of year is one of great happiness and well ... joy! But for many folks, the Advent season is a time of stress (finals and end of semester challenges), or of loss (for some a painful reminder of lost loved ones), or simply an unwelcomed reminder that life does not look like the holiday movies that show this time of year when everyone ends up in front of a fireplace with the perfect family or a special someone.
It always helps me to stop and realize that when the angels spoke of the great joy that was coming, that first Christmas, they weren’t speaking to characters from a Hallmark movie, but to folks who were up to their necks in the reality of life. That promise of great joy was spoken to an old man who had faithfully served in the Temple but knew the bitter sting (and likely his neighbor’s judgement) of childlessness. It was also spoken to a group of shepherds, outsiders, men considered social outcasts by many in their time. It was also spoken by an older woman, Elizabeth, whose shame was about to end with the birth of her son, to her young cousin, Mary, whose shame was just about to begin.
The good news of great joy came because God was drawing near to them and in the midst of their “unHallmark-like” lives, he was going to bring about his redemption. In the midst of social rejection, God was going to draw near. In the midst of messiness and brokenness, God was going to come close. That in spite of what seems what we see around us, the Father is drawing close to us through the gift of his Son, Jesus.
Take some time to sit and rest and reflect on that joyful news!!!