Joy - Advent 2020


There is no joy like the joy of discovery.

“I just discovered this new restaurant!”

“I just discovered this new TV show!”

“I just discovered this new band!”

“I just discovered I have extra vacation time!”

“I just discovered I had a wealthy relative who left me millions of dollars in inheritance!”

Joy is quite possibly the deepest, most common motivator of all people in all times. We go to great lengths for joy, for happiness. When you discover something really good, you can’t help but respond. It’s like it draws something out of you. That moment of discovery, that spontaneous split-second flutter of delight in something truly good— that’s joy.

We so often miss our chance at joy because of one thing: fear.

The Christmas story is a story about something truly good, and what happens when we take God at his word, amidst our fears: we discover joy, and that joy draws forth praise.  

Luke 2:8-20

“…there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.”

Shepherds were among the first to hear this good news. There was nothing special about them. They were at work. The setting was mundane. These details are important.

God comes to you where you are. He doesn’t make you dress up. He doesn’t give you an address on the far corner of the world, where He can be found. He finds you. He comes precisely to the place where it seems he is least likely to come.

And when He comes, you know it.

Luke 2:9

“And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.”

There is no doubt when one is in the presence of God. There is an associated condition: fear. God’s glory and man’s fear are correlated.  

We avoid fear like the plague, and for good reason. Who likes to be afraid? But our aversion to fear has an unintended consequence.

Our aversion to fear has deafened us to the message which is only made audible through our fear. We avoid our fear, but in so doing, we miss our joy.

Luke 2:10a

“And the angel said to them, “Fear not…”

Fear, if nothing else, makes us present. It makes us alert to the moment. Like hearing a startling noise when you least expect it. Suddenly, you’re all ears.

We so often try to hide from our fears, or numb ourselves to them, or try and foresee every possible scenario and control every possible variable in order to mitigate our fear. But what if God gives us these fears to make us present, to help us listen?

You see, when we do listen to God amidst our fears, the message is marvelous: fear not.

Luke 2:10b

“…for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”

Joy is not only in the fact that we have nothing to fear — joy is in beholding how our best wish, the one wish to rule all wishes, has come true.

Behold! There is good news of which you ought bear witness! When you do, it will be your great joy!

Luke 2:11

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  

Behold! God is here. He has come to save you once and for all. He has come to make good on His promise. The days of evil are numbered. Sorrow will cease. Justice will finally come. Fear will be no more. When you forget, He will remind you. You don’t have to explain yourself. You don’t have to answer for your sins. The decisive word you’ve been waiting to hear your whole life has been spoken.

The great joy of the world is here.

But it looks different than you might expect.

Luke 2:12

“And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

It’s not in a palace.

It’s not flashy, it’s not large.

It’s not in a Macy’s window display.

It’s not in the bigger house or the nicer car.  

It’s not in the empty promise of upward-mobility.

It’s not in the supposed dream-lives of the rich and famous.

It’s not even in your own half-decent attempts to become a better person.

It’s small and easy to miss.

It’s hidden in the most unlikely place.

There, in that manger, lies all the joy you’ve ever dared hope for.

Luke 2:15-16

“When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.

After beholding, the shepherds took a risk. They staked something on this news.

This is where it gets hard for us.

Modern marketing plays to our desire for joy all the time. Our minds are littered with counterfeit promises: “Buy into this trend, this relationship, this career path, this new phone, this political leader, this new method of raising kids… and you will have joy!”

And so we buy in. Time and again we invest too much in too small a promise, and are let down. We spend a fortune with so little return. We get our political leader in office and after a bit, we still feel something is missing. No wonder it’s so hard to hear the goods news. No wonder we are skeptical.

But we need not be skeptical of God. His word will not let us down. His word is “good news of great joy.” It is news concerning an event.

When we stake our lives on this good news, this marvelous discovery, we find great joy. And this joy draws something forth in us: praise.

Luke 2:20

“And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”

Joy always precedes praise. Even with lesser joys, like a good meal, you can’t help but audibly express your delight. “Mmmm! This is delicious!” How much more will this ultimate joy draw forth praise in us?

This Christmas, don’t be afraid to take God at his word right where you are, amidst your fears. Behold this good news and discover your great joy! Take that risk and stake everything on it.

You will not be let down. In your joy, you will be bursting at the seams with praise.



God, though I’m afraid, help me take you at your word. Help me discover joy.


Make a list of the ways you’ve invested too much in too little. Ask God to help you actively listen to this good news and not to be afraid.