We live in the already and the not yet time between Jesus’ resurrection and His future return. Despite Christ’s victory over death, the world is still deeply broken. The joy we might often experience during the holidays seems especially elusive this year—has anyone escaped the host of global challenges 2020 has offered?
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians from the seemingly joyless setting of a prison cell. Yet, the key theme of Philippians is joyfulness. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice” (4:4). How is this possible? Because, as Paul affirmed, joy is a demonstration that one is in touch with God—that one knows God in good times and in difficult times.
Paul gave thanks for who God is, for what God has done and for what God will do. Joy is the hopeful anticipation of Christ’s return, when He will right all wrongs, heal all wounds and reconcile and restore all of creation. For now, suffering and joy are companions as we look forward to the fulfillment of God’s promises while waiting for them to be fulfilled.
Advent invites us to expectant, genuine joy in the midst of sorrow. This is Mary’s joy, under the boot of Roman occupation, now pregnant and unwed. She sings, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46-47). He would come “to bring good news to the poor…to proclaim release to the captives…to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).
Mary’s joy drew from her people group’s history with God and her own experience with God’s faithfulness. She believed the prophecies and promises. Her joy overflowed when she learned that the long-awaited Savior’s arrival was imminent and that she had been chosen to bear Him into the world.
How might you make space for God’s joy this Advent season? Remember God’s promises. Recall your history of God’s faithfulness. Consider how God has called you to bear Jesus, the Savior, into a waiting world.