The Coming of Grace: Joy

Welcome to our Advent series The Coming of Grace.  During this season we will share with you the sights and sounds of the Advent season.  Feel free to enjoy the pictures, music, words and thoughts below as you desire.  This week we celebrate the Third Sunday of Advent, Joy.

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Reflect on this image...

                         What comes to mind?

Scripture: Luke 2: 1-20

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to their own towns to be registered. 4 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. 8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they

saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Devotional by Rev. Antonio Vargas

I don’t know a single mother that in the process of pushing a child out, there was joy found in the pain, and yet, my mother would claim that her life’s greatest joy has been birthing her three children.

In the Gospel of Luke, we encounter the birth pains of Mary with Jesus, and the response of those surrounding him. We associate the birth of Jesus with joy, and yet, this is not a time where there is much to be happy about. The prayers prayed for over 400 years have not found their respective response. The prophetic word given to Mary, Zechariah and Elizabeth does not come at a time where Israel is ruling and reigning in power and authority; this prophecy comes when Israel has no king or power. Oh yes, they are no longer in captivity. They have escaped Babylon, they are in their motherland, their promised land. They are in their home, but they are not at home.

Have you been in the position of Israel before? In the comfort of habit and religiosity, and yet still…feel enslaved to a larger thing? In a time where cancel culture, injustice, economic disparities, and mental health issues are at an all-time high, is this really the time of joy? The world was in despair when Jesus was born. The world was in despair once Jesus ascended into heaven. Still today there is much to have despair for.

And yet, joy does not come from favorable human circumstances, but it comes greatest when those circumstances are the most painful and severe. Let’s say it like this: joy is the liberating act of resistance against the despairs of the world.  

To be joyous means to delight in spiritual realities. Joy is a depth of assurance and confidence that ignites a cheerful heart, no matter the circumstance, for joy comes in the morning. Joy is manifested through the movement of the Holy Spirit in His children. Joy is the deep-down sense of well-being that abides in the heart of any person who knows all is well between themselves and the Lord. And, joy from the birth of Jesus tells you and me that even in the middle of suffering and pain, this is not the end.

When we read Luke 2, the Messiah wrapped in cloths does not come as one sovereign coming against another to overtake and lead a coo, rather He comes so that we “may have the full measure of joy” (Jn. 17:13), found in Him, the bringer of “great joy for all people” (Lk 2:10).

Now more than ever, we can accept and receive the invitation that joy offers through the Birth of our Messiah, Jesus Christ. Why? Because in those hours approaching a birth, mothers often end with tears of joy — not because it’s over, but because there is a new beginning to life.

When Jesus arrives, joy arrives in its fullness to give us liberation power from the pain of today. We can say will full confidence: joy to the world! Let earth receive her king!