After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. (Matthew 2:9-10, ESV)
While Christmas is traditionally the second most important day behind Easter on the Christian calendar, God’s love story does not complete unless they remain intricately woven together. For Jesus to conquer death on the cross and ascend to our Father in heaven, he first had to come in human flesh.
Advent, the four Sundays and weeks leading up to Christmas day, means comingin Latin and offers us the opportunity to prepare and remember the real meaning of Christmas. There are variations in themes during Advent; the most common include hope, peace, joy, and love. Today, let’s lean into joy.
We are living in a time and culture where instant gratification is at our fingertips. Google searches, overnight shipping, Instant Pot meals, notifications beeping on our screens, and Facebook likes are just a few. None of these things are bad in and of themselves, but harm comes when these sources of instant gratification fill us with false joy that drives us into disconnection rather than inviting connection.
Did you know the estimated time that the magi followed the star to Bethlehem is around two years? Two years of hot days and cold nights across harsh terrain. They had no concept of instant gratification and yet they remained steadfast on their journey. Their reward was great joy as they looked into the eyes of little Jesus and felt his presence.
The good news is that we don’t have to travel across thousands of miles (literally or virtually) for joy to permeate our hearts. Jennie Allen, author and founder of IF:Gathering, recently wrote, “The more I go, the more it is crystal clear to me the work and people right in front of me are the most joy-filled work I have.” I believe she is suggesting that no social media post or big event can replace face-to-face intentional relationships where vulnerability and shared activity cultivate the soil for joy to bloom.
Christmas day is quickly approaching. How do you want to prepare to lean into joy in these final two weeks? Will it be through the next fun Christmas party or gifts to be exchanged? Or, might you experience great joy as you welcome Jennie Allen’s wise words, “The book deal, the followers online, the speaking gig will never feel more rewarding than the subtle slow changed lives of people you know and love up close.”
Your life may not be lived on a public stage like a writer, professional golfer, or speaker, but we all have the same opportunity to know and love up close the people in our lives. And it begins as we “rejoice exceedingly with great joy” through an up-close relationship with Jesus this Christmas.
December 12, 2019
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