You Are the Reason for the Season
When my mom passed away almost 22 years ago, of all the condolences, hugs, tears and loving words I received, I only remember one. A sweet lady from my church, one I barely knew, said to me: “Don’t you know how pleased and overjoyed Jesus is right now to have welcomed one of His precious children into His arms?”
At a time of deep sorrow, these words, like a soothing balm, brought true comfort and healing to my spirit. I could almost see it. Her beautiful soul in His actual presence, in a renewed and perfect body, hugging her Lord—the One who humbled Himself, arriving as a babe, living and dying for us in order to make that moment in time possible.
But because of the wise words of that godly woman, the joy I saw wasn’t just hers.
The joy I saw was His.
I’d always imagined that we were the ones who found our joy in Him (which we do), but somehow His joy in us had eluded me. However, Hebrews 12:2 taught me otherwise: “...for the joy set before him he endured the cross...”
Through the years, as I meditated on this precious verse, the picture of God’s joy in His children became a little bit clearer to me.
My mind wanders back to the beginning of time, and I imagine a garden filled with fruit-laden trees, babbling brooks, bursts of colorful flowers, and man and beast living in perfect harmony. I see in Eden the joy of God and the joy of man come together as one.
It’s hard to imagine why anyone would trade that kind of gladness, goodness and perfect intimacy for selfish, self-serving autonomy. Yet, man and woman did just that. And they were expelled and separated from the presence of God. Exile cost them the loss of intimacy, peace, joy, and eternal life.
In exile, man continued on a path of self-destruction. God’s heart grieved. But His love, mercy, and provision, never relented. His longing to be with His people continued to be paramount. God always provided a way back into His presence.
He called Abraham to father His new family, whose light was to shine on the rest of the nations in the midst of a dark world. But time and time again His family failed, His people failed, His kings failed. And so, eventually, the nation of Israel relived the same fate as Adam. Their rebellion and apostasy landed them, once again, into a land of exile.
It was during this dark time of wilderness-exile that the prophets preached judgment. But, they also offered hope: a coming Savior; a new Adam that would not sin; a new Israel that would not fail. A new King whose kingdom would never end. The time would come when not only would the people rejoice, but their God would rejoice with them once again:
The LORD has taken away the judgments against you;
he has cleared away your enemies.
The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst;
you shall never again feel evil.
On that day it shall be said in Jerusalem:
"Fear not, O Zion;
let not your hands grow weak.
The LORD your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you in gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.” (Zephaniah 3:15)
In the desert wasteland, the Savior brings the joy and gladness of Eden.
For the LORD comforts Zion;
he comforts all her waste places
and makes her wilderness like Eden,
her desert like the garden of the LORD;
joy and gladness will be found in her,
thanksgiving and the voice of song. (Isaiah 51:3)
My friend, during this Christmas time, even as some of us try to celebrate amidst loss, troubles, and uncertainty, remember this:
You are the reason for the season.
“For the joy set before him he endured the cross…” Hebrews 12:2.
Yes, you—one of His precious children—are the joy set before Him.
Jesus came to restore the joy of Eden. The joy of man and the joy of God have come together again in his birth, death, and resurrection. And He rejoices over you. This is why the angel appearing to the shepherds in Bethlehem declared: ”I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” And even the hosts of heaven rejoiced!
Let’s join them and celebrate His joy this season.