Advent Reflections Week Three: Joy

“Joy is nurtured, not by pretending everything is fine, but by holding our hope together with our grief, the good news with our sorrow, and naming both as reality. We practice joy because we are clear-eyed about our realities.”
Sarah Bessey

Advent is a strange time which both waits for joy expectantly and seeks the joy which pours through the cracks in our ordinary lives.  The shepherds had a dangerous and often unattractive job. They were most likely priests as well as shepherds, caring for the lambs which would be sacrificed at the temple. They lived in the space between the priesthood and the ceremonially unclean; and then God broke through their ordinary lives with an extraordinary angelic vision. 

Their words, as recounted in Luke 2:10 proclaim:

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.”

Their joy when they met Jesus and later became the first evangelists as they shared their wonder, did not air lift them from their difficult circumstances (They most probably still had to return to the fields to watch their flocks the next nightbut their encounter with Jesus changed their perspective.

Going forward they would hold the memory of the night God broke through the skies – and we do the same. The joy evoked from our encounters with Jesus doesn’t necessarily change the specifics of our lives – but it changes us. 

We need the clarity of joy which is honest about our happiness and our grief but keeps our eyes fixed on our Saviour, the man of sorrows who is the source of our joy.

And we need joy more than every this year. 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote:

“We can, and should also, celebrate Christmas despite the ruins around us.

“The joy Jesus’ birth is our reason to celebrate – despite the ruins of 2020. 

We need the clarity of joy which is honest about our happiness and our grief but keeps our eyes fixed on our Saviour, the man of sorrows who is the source of our joy.

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