Advent Reading Day 21 – Costly Joy
“33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” Luke 2:33-35
Ever met a truly joyful person? I’m not talking about the person who smiles all the time or who is practicing a fake it till you make it kind of attitude. I’m not even talking about a positive upbeat kind of person. I mean a person full of joy. Joy is one of those things that gets talked about a lot at Christmas time. We celebrate Jesus’ coming and talk about Joy. We even have one Sunday in Advent that is dedicated to the topic. But, lets face it, joy is easy to talk about when things are going well, but becomes very difficult to imagine when trials hit.
But, there are those people who can sustain a lot of life, yet their joy stays intact. I think of one woman I know here in Kore who has a very difficult life. She is working as a cook and making very little money, probably about $35 USD per month. She has suffered the loss of children. She has suffered the loss of her husband. She lives in a town that has little hope. She will never escape the life that she is living. She is old enough now that it is all downhill from here, there is no opportunity for upward mobility. Yet, she is full of joy. She has a smile that lights up a room and she bubbles over with joy. She is kind and compassionate, despite the hardening circumstances that she has faced in life. While trials have come she has come through them full of joy and life. There have been so many opportunities for the enemy to steal all the joy she had from her, yet she has persevered and thrived.
“Yet” becomes a powerful word when I think of her specifically and think of joy generically. “Yet” is a word that marks reality while also marking that something deeper has occurred. Something has happened that defied the odds and does not make sense. Hardships have come, “yet” there is a deep joy that defies the odds. But how does that joy stay in tact? My perspective is that this joy comes from an intimate faith with Jesus. It comes from a mature kind of faith that often times we find in the most simple of people who while having been beat around by life, “yet” they kept their eyes focused on Jesus. They have many questions about the pain they have experienced, but they also know that life is too short to stay focused on needing to have answers. They know that to demand answers as a condition of their trust is the road to bitterness, yet choosing to trust while still having those questions can become the road to joy. This brand of joy truly is a work of The Holy Spirit in us as we stay pliable to Him despite pain, circumstances, disappointments and failures.
I think of Mary and the word that Simeon delivers to her. We read that Simeon blessed her, yet to many of us these words would sound like anything but blessing. In verse 33 Mary was marveling about the words that were spoken over Jesus, but in verse 35 Simeon delivers some hard news – that Jesus would pierce her own soul too. This was a message that there would be pain to come in Mary’s life. Here she is with her 8 day old son who has had all of these amazing things spoken over Him as the Messiah, yet there was going to be pain in her future. I wonder how Mary felt at these words. We don’t get an inside look, yet we don’t read that she lived life any differently than what she might have done otherwise. Even though pain was to come there was no sense of a faith crisis for Mary. She continued to follow God to her fullest and we read that Jesus grew and matured which she would have played a major role in. Mary had a deep trust in The Lord that made The Lord notice her, that enabled her to walk through the difficulties of being chosen by God to give birth to Jesus, that endured suffering and that continued to pursue Him despite having words that pain would one day come.
Perhaps at Christmas we get the wrong perception of joy. It is marketed by Walmart and becomes a staple of what is a very cheery celebration for the majority of the population. Maybe we set ourselves up somehow to think that joy is having all that we want and living on Easy Street. The problem is that true deep joy is not found there. Rather, true, Jesus focused joy is found in those who have experienced the pain of life “yet” they have kept trusting and growing. True joy is found in a shack in a back alley of Kore with a woman with no way out and no way up, but all she has at the end of the day is a simple, sweet, deep, tried and true trust in Jesus that makes me look like a spiritual midget by comparison.
Oh Jesus, may we know your true joy this Christmas.
Prayer: Jesus, thank you for Joy. We are so grateful that we do not have to live life in misery, but rather we can enjoy life and enjoy You…no matter what. Thank you for the example of true joy that we find among the poorest of the poor which in turn become megaphones to call us out of our misguided quest for what we think is joy but that is only a cheap imitation. By Your Holy Spirit, please do a work of joy within us this Christmas season. We give you our circumstances, our pain, our unanswered questions and our uncertain futures and we ask that you would empower us with trust and fill us with joy…no matter what happens. We love you and we rejoice in your coming! Amen.