Sunday reflection 11 December 2016 – Surprised by joy
Reading: Matthew 2:13-23 (following the Christmas play)
(3rd Sunday of Advent when we light the pink Christmas candle of joy on the Advent wreath).
At Messy Church / Messy Christmas this month we had a story which had this key line in it: Keep Calm and Carry On. And the people responded each time: It’s Messy. Christmas.
And it doesn’t get much messier than this today.
- Jesus on a mad King’s hit-list.
- The massacre of the innocents – all those little boys slaughtered.
- Jesus the refugee – anticipating perhaps the 65 million refugees in the world today.
- A dad with international travel plans that appear out of nowhere – virtually overnight (in a dream). (Joseph, you could have given us some warning!)
- Settling in Nazareth! What a strange choice…. Nazareth! Can anything good come out of there? (John 1:46 – the words of Nathanael).
So how much JOY do you think they “enjoyed” in those early years?
Great question really. I’m not sure they were in it for the joy ride. (Like the people in “Jingle Bells” laughing all the way on their sleigh).
It speaks to our lives – when they are not ordered and predictable, when God is at work stirring us up to listen to his voice, open ourselves to dreams, and being willing to be sent where He wants us to go. To speak to the people He wants us to speak to. To be vulnerable. Even ostracised. To live a roller-coaster life – which is the closest it gets to a “joy ride”.
How are you doing when it comes to being flexible for God’s plans?
What kind of Joseph or Mary would you have been? How would your marriage have coped? Would you have gone off in the right direction? Or headed for a port to escape like Jonah did?
And would you children have been obedient like Jesus?
Remember the one thing said about him as a boy.
Two things matter actually – his words about being in his Father’s house, and the gospel writer Luke’s words about the boy Jesus.
Listen to the whole passage – he had been “lost” but not really in the story in Luke 2.
Luke 2 ends with this: Luk 2:49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” Luk 2:50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them. Luk 2:51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.
Luk 2:52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men.
Will you grow in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and people in your future? Especially you young people who are the age Jesus was when that was written.
If you grow like that – you’ll know real joy.
Christmas joy does include the yummy things and great presents. I “enjoy” the carols too.
But nothing beats the deep joy in our hearts when we are listening to God and going where He wants us for His purposes. Being who he wants us to be.
The Joy of the Lord will be our strength, said the prophet Nehemiah in 8:10.
King David wrote this: God will fill our hearts (lit: You have filled my heart ) with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound in Psalm 4:7.
Knowing the Creator is always far better than knowing even the joys of his creation. God’s gladness invaded David’s heart.
And that happens when obedience is the goal, not the joy itself. When we have a true undivided heart for God.
What is in your heart then?
As C. S. Lewis points out, we will never know joy by seeking it.
Joy or gladness comes as a side-effect of the presence of the living God.
When Lewis became a Christian, he was in his words “surprised by joy.”
May you too be surprised by joy. This Advent and beyond.
May a pink candle be lit in your life every day!