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joy for all

“Why am I so favored that the mother of my Lord should visit me? The moment your voice reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises.

~ Elizabeth greeting Mary, New Testament Gospel of Luke 1.43-45 (paraphrased)

12/17 is the third Sunday of
Advent. Joy is the theme. One of the oxymorons of Christmas is the carol that begins, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come.” If the Lord has come, should there not be more joy in the world?

The Oxford Dictionary defines joy as a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.

In the New Testament joy is more particular. Joy is the expression of great pleasure and happiness resulting from a certainty that God will fulfill His promises.

Joy sees a desert, remembers God’s prophetic promise that He will make the desert a garden, and expresses great pleasure and happiness in the garden that will be. In the midst of loneliness and disappointment the believer recalls the Bible claim, “
To all who receive Christ, to those who believe in His name, He gave the right to become children of God,” and celebrates their place in the kingdom of heaven; that is joy.

Elizabeth rejoiced, “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her.”

At the very time Elizabeth rejoiced, Mary’s betrothed husband was planning, due to her unplanned pregnancy, to “
divorce her quietly.” Yet at that exact time Mary rejoiced, too. She was certain that while her own life was being turned upside down and inside out, God was at work in and through her to fulfill His great salvation plan. It was in expressing great pleasure and happiness in God fulfilling His promise that she experienced joy, although His promise was far from accomplished. Mary found joy in spite of the likelihood Joseph might reject her.

There is a vast difference between wishful thinking and joy. Wishful thinking is haunted by the question, “Am I favored? Am I even wanted?” Joy continuously celebrates, “Why am I so favored?” Joy is the expression of great pleasure and happiness in the certainty God is fulfilling His promises. Joy comes when we express great pleasure and happiness—confident that while we reside in a broken world our certain and eternal place is the kingdom of heaven. ~

Dan Nygaard