READ: Luke 1:13-16, 39-43, 57, 80, John 3: 25-30
In 1623, a woman in France gave birth to one of the greatest mathematical minds in history. From early on he demonstrated amazing genius, discovering at the age of 12 that the sum of the angles of a triangle is equal to two right angles – a fact now taught in every basic geometry class. As an adult, Blaise paschal devoted himself to mathematical experiments and traveled about lecturing on his findings. Then one night something happened that changed everything.
He was driving a coach home when the lead horses took fright and fled wildly across a bridge railing into the dark waters below. Had the reins not snapped, Paschal would have plunged to his death, a reality that deeply affected him. Later that night as he pondered his near-death experience, the presence of God descended in a dramatic way. He wrote of it on a piece of pursuits, he went on to devote himself completely to Christ. Upon his death they found the amulet around his neck, with the paper he’d written that night. It contained these words:…’O righteous Father, the world hath not known Thee, But i have known Thee. Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy…’
Joy ought to be the song of every Christ-follower, for it flows from the heart of God and resonates on page after page of Scripture. The Christmas story is replete with expressions of gladness and calls to rejoice and nowhere is this seen more keenly than in Christ’s forerunner and cousin, John the Baptist. Though we tend to think of him as some kind of odd and lonely prophet, the truth is that John was a courier of joy from the very start. From the angel Gabriel’s promise of great delight to Zachariah, to the leaping for joy of the babe in Elisabeth’s womb, and the celebration of the entire village at his birth, gladness characterized everything about him.
John’s joy as a young man was wrapped up in the wonder of being chosen to announce something as incredible as the coming of the Messiah. Though he preached a hard message of repentance, there is never the sense he viewed his calling as anything but the delight of his soul. He made this clear to his disciples one day when they were concerned that he was losing his standing to the newcomer named Jesus of Nazareth. Though he had told them many times that he was only there to prepare the way, they lost sight of that when the crowds thinned around them, flocking instead to the One whom john declared was the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
As they shared their concerns, john explained that he was like a best man in a wedding, waiting with everyone for the bridegroom to arrive. Once he heard the bridegroom’s voice, he knew the wedding was imminent and joy completely consumed him. nothing brought john greater happiness than to know that he was fading into the background, even as Jesus gained in popularity. In reality, Jesus’ appearance was the beginning of the end for John; a horrifying one that he very well have suspected was on the horizon even as he spoke of his joy being made full.
So with every Christmas carol we sing in the coming days, let us cling to the truth that we are made for joy, that no matter what our life might hold on any given day, our very birthright as believers is to know gladness of heart. Think of it. We too have the privilege of preparing the way of listening for the Bridegroom’s voice as He comes to us. And as we live to see Him increase and ourselves decrease, we will, like john the Baptist, have our joy made full to overflowing.
REFLECT: Though joy is our birthright as children of God, we often have to enter into a fight of faith to experience it. Consider your life today. Is it permeated with joy in Christ? Are oyu motivated by sheer pleasure in doing His will? Do you live to enjoy Jesus more? In what ways might you need to enter into battle to reclaim your right to joy?
RESPOND: John the Baptist rejoiced to hear the Bridegroom’s voice. Ask Jesus to speak to your heart today by giving you a revelation of Who He is and His presence with you, as you read the following verses. Spend some time worshipping by rejoicing in Him.
1 Chronicles 16: 32-34
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it:
let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the LORD, for He comes to judge the earth.
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for HE is good;
for His steadfast love endures forever!