JOY is embedded in Advent and *Epiphany, folded into the Christmas story.
*Epiphany is just around the corner and falls on the liturgical calendar twelve days after Christmas. Yes, those twelve days of Christmas are not actually the last twelve days of shopping before Christmas as popular culture might have lead us to believe. The actual day that begins this special season is January 6th, when we remember the wise men who visited Jesus. This day marks the start of a new season for our churches that will last until Lent. During this season we consider Christ’s revelation of Epiphany, and that word means manifestation, we consider Christ’s revelation to all nations. Lent, which marks the end of Epiphany, will begin with Ash Wednesday on February 26th. This weekend some churches will have a special Epiphany celebration to mark this special time. Some will serve “King Cake” that will continue to be served right up until Mardis Gras on February 25th.
- Gabriel tells Zechariah that John will be a joy and delight, with many rejoicing at his birth (Luke 1:14).
- John leaps for Joy in his mother’s womb, when Mary comes to visit (Luke 1:44)
- Neighbors and relatives share Elizabeth’s joy at the birth of John a display of God’s great mercy toward her—fulfilling the Gabriel’s words in verse 14 (Luke 1:58)
- The angel describes his words to the shepherds as “good news of great joy “(Luke 2:10)
- The wise men rejoice with “exceedingly great joy” at the sight of the star (Matthew 2:10)
In one sense, the presence of joy in the Christmas story is not surprising. After all, we have the advantage of hindsight; we know the end of the story. Not only that, the commercialism surrounding Christmas in the West shoves “joy” to the forefront. However, consider the circumstances of our first century cast of characters who experienced joy, responding to unfolding events with rejoicing. It is a story set in poverty and oppression. A story wrought with danger.
What does the presence of joy in the midst of less-than-ideal circumstances of the Christmas story show us?
A change of circumstances is not required for joy to enter in.
Joy cannot be pushed out by darkness or run off by oppression.
Joy anticipates the hope of the future, regardless of the present, and changes the atmosphere.
Despite the outward Western trappings of Christmas joy, in this season, for many of us, our emotional poverty and oppression, the parts of our story threatening to destroy us, prick all the more painfully. But, like the cast of characters in the Christmas story, “good news of great joy” has been announced to us, it’s signs—like the wise men’s star—are all around us. Rejoicing is an option.
I believe with every fiber of my being that joy is our choice, our gift, even in difficulty, and if we choose joy, it will change the atmosphere. Admittedly, I do not always know how this works or what it looks like, and right now, I’m asking Jesus to show me.
Monica Warren writes, studies and attends an Anglican church in Mobile, Alabama. She is a gifted Bible teacher, conference speaker, an amazing athlete and Grandmother in training. Go to learn more about her and her ministry: https://www.hijackedjesus.com/
(Photo by Canva Elements Team)