Chapter & verse: Luke 2:8-20
Matt Stone unwraps the joy of Christmas
I want to focus on one word: the word ‘joy’, for joy is a theme that runs through the Christmas story. Zechariah is told that he and his wife Elizabeth will have a son in old age, and ‘he will be a joy and a delight’. When a pregnant Mary approaches Elizabeth, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb ‘leaped for joy’ as Jesus’ presence was made known. Mary, on discovering that she is to be the mother of Jesus, bursts into joyful song – glorifying God her Saviour. And today still, one of God’s great gifts at Christmas is joy.
Throughout scripture, joy is almost always linked to God’s presence and God’s salvation. Psalm 16 says: ‘You fill me with joy in your presence.’ The Old Testament festivals were to be joyous, as people came closer to God’s presence in the Ark or Temple. 1 Chronicles declares: ‘strength and joy are in his dwelling place’. In the New Testament, joy is very much linked to the presence and work of the Spirit – including in times of persecution.
And joy comes from salvation. There was joy after David defeated Goliath; when God helped Nehemiah repair the walls of Jerusalem; and when God worked through Esther to stop a genocide. Even the book of Job has several references to joy: a joy that comes from being faithful to God and trusting in His future salvation. In the New Testament, Jesus talks about the joy of finding (and acquiring) the hidden treasure in the field – a picture of God’s salvation in Jesus. Similarly, in the parables of the lost coin, sheep and son, there is joy – not just for what or who has been found, but in the heart of God. There’s joy when Jesus sends out the 72 and they see people come to faith. There Jesus tells the disciples not to rejoice in their ministry success, but that their names are written in heaven. There’s joy when the women go to Jesus’ tomb and discover it empty, that Jesus has indeed risen. There’s great joy in Samaria as salvation comes to that region; and from Paul and Silas’s jailer when he is changed by the Gospel.
Matt Stone is a minister in Rotherham and Doncaster, and Chair of GEAR – the Group for Evangelism and Renewal in the United Reformed Church
This is an extract from an article published in the December 2022 / January 2023 edition of Reform