“Here is the story of how the Chosen One was born: His mother, Bitter Tears (Mary), had been promised in marriage to He Gives Sons (Joseph). But before they came together in marriage, while still a virgin, she found out that she was carrying a baby in her womb from the Holy Spirit. He Gives Sons (Joseph) was a man of honor. He did not want to bring her trouble and open shame, so he thought about secretly releasing her from the marriage promise. As he wondered about these things, a messenger from the Great Spirit appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘He Gives Sons (Joseph), descendant of Much Loved One (David), do not be afraid to take Bitter Tears (Mary) to be your wife, because the Holy Spirit has given her this child. She will give birth to a son. You will name him Creator Sets Free (Jesus), because he will set his people free from their bad hearts and broken ways.’ This gave full meaning to the words of Creator spoken long ago by the prophet, ‘A young virgin will be with child and give birth to a son. They will call his name Immanuel, which in our tribal language means Creator is With Us.’” Matthew 1:18-23 (FNV)
This long awaited announcement surely would have brought joy. God no longer remained silent. God declared His coming. God would dwell among His people. God would fulfill His promise.
But joy does not arrive unaccompanied.
Just as we can’t have hope without lament and peace without turmoil, the Advent season reminds us we cannot have joy without trials.
Trials are the avenue by which joy arrives.
Jesus crashed through the divine silence that had been hovering for hundreds of years. Glory came down and resided in a human body, a body which felt pain and emotions and exhaustion, which bled and scarred and died.
Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith endured the cross because of the joy set before Him. He could walk through the valley because of the promise of His Father’s presence. He could pass through the worst of trials because of the dawn of redemption that would break through. He could go to the grave because of the victorious power that would conquer it.
Therefore, we as the Church, we as bridge builders can declare that the joy of the Lord is our strength. We can claim joy. Joy is our resistance. Joy is our song. Joy is ours in this weary and heavy world, and we can trust that God is with us.
We can hold tight to Psalm 30:5 which says, “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Perseverance through the lonely and cold and dreadful night brings about the beautiful sunrise that is joy. As we face individual and collective trials, true joy takes eternal root.
James 1:2-4 tells us, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
May our trials declare that the Spirit of God resides within us. May our current joy testify to God’s presence, His dwelling with us, His name of Immanuel. May the joy that is to come give us a holy perseverance to keep pressing on.
Jesus broke the silence and became closely acquainted with trials. And because He did, we can take heart, we can have courage, we can press on, we can know joy.
Even here and even now – especially here and especially now – we can know Joy.