It’s the week of the Third Sunday of Advent, so if we’re following the traditions, we focus on Joy. Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice.”
The Christmas hymn that might come to mind is Joy to the World by Isaac Watts. It’s a peppy classic. However, there in the third verse, Watts writes and so we sing:
No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found.
We’re singing about a day someday when all is set right, when all of our pain and suffering are redeemed. But we’re certainly not there yet. The curse is found right here, right now, down deep, far and wide.
Rejoice in that? It can be nearly impossible to rejoice in midst of: suffering, death, lack of employment, health issues, depression, relational strife, not being able to pay your bills, work pressure, teething babies, an unexpected pregnancy, flunking a test, another lonely weekend, stepping on the scale…
Last week I sat in the presence of a dead man in a coffin. I sat with grieving friends and family. A dear husband, father, son, brother, uncle, grandfather, Scoutmaster, beekeeper, woodworker, churchman, God-truster – passed from this life to the next, and too soon, far too soon. I hate cancer. I hate death. The curse has found it’s way into our very cells. Into car wrecks. Into unanswered prayers. Into doubts and fears.
After my friend was taken out and the cars drove away, I sat in the church by myself and cried for awhile.
What do we do?
At Christmastime (and all throughout the year) it’s not fake or inauthentic to get around some people who also struggle, and to remind each other what is true. Death is true, but it’s an intruder. It’s not the final say.
Emmanuel is with us. Jesus is real. He really came. He really cares. He really matters. We can rejoice in that, while still being honest that we look forward to his return, his second coming.
We have a Savior who knows what it’s like to suffer. He cried. He was angry. He took pain. He was born into misery and humility. He was betrayed. He died and was laid in the ground. None of that seems very dignified for God. And yet he was a man. Born a baby in Bethlehem. Grew up in Nazareth. He did his ministry in dust and dirt, in hunger, in sweat and tears, always misunderstood, always on the brink of some revolt by those who wanted to use him.
I think we have to work on some rejoicing in the midst of that. And he also knows joy, mostly because you are his joy.
I think this has to be true:
He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove
The glories of his righteousness and wonders of His love.
Though I may not understand it, if he doesn’t rule the world, we are in big trouble. I trust he rules with truth and grace.
He rules with the glories of his righteousness and wonders of his love. So we rejoice – with tears. We look up and trace the rainbow through the rain. We follow the Suffering Servant, the Man of Sorrows. We find joy. We rejoice. We ask him to come again and heal us in every way. We confess that it’s often hard to see this, but we walk in faith not by sight.