In the third week of advent, we light the candle of joy.
Our world is a place of sickness, poverty, injustice, and death. For all the beauty we see around us, for all the common graces our gracious God has given us, for every lovely thing we are blessed to receive that delights our heart and fills us with gladness, we also know that this world continues to be a place of great heartache and grief. The joyful, lovely things are counterposed by sorrows and darkness because our world remains under sin and the curse of death.
How, then, can we cling to joy if there is heartache and this seemingly unshakeable darkness that surrounds us?
The angel proclaims to the shepherd at the advent of Jesus’ birth, “do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).
To a world that is so steeped in our own choice of futility and darkness, God has come to give us the greatest grace and mercy of all – light and joy that we find through knowing His Son, Jesus Christ. And so, in the words of one songwriter, we come together at Christmas to reflect on this beautiful truth: that we celebrate the day that Christ was born to die so that we might one day come to Him and live in the righteousness of His perfect life and in the power of His resurrection (Relient K, I Celebrate the Day).
In Christ, all evil is trampled underfoot, to be burned completely when He returns to us, not as a child but as our victorious King. And He will gather His people into the complete inauguration of His kingdom, where there will be no darkness, no suffering, no tears, and no death, for all who cling to His salvation.
This is the joy we hold fast to as Christians, and the joy we carry with us as we proclaim Christ’s gospel into the darkness that still shrouds the lives of the people around us: strangers, family, enemies, friends, who will remain in crushing darkness, in this life and the next, unless Christ shines His light into their hearts, just as He has shone into ours.