Advent Deeper: Unexpected Joy

“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”
Luke 2:10

Joy. It wasn’t something the shepherds expected to hear about that night.

It was just an ordinary night of doing their ordinary duties. Walk the sheep out. Let them graze. Watch to make sure no animal tried to come and snatch one away. Keep an eye out for any sheep that got lost, or stuck, or fell into a hole. Nothing exciting. Nothing new. Just the same, mundane, lowly task day in and day out.

Joy wasn’t really a part of their lives.

These shepherds were outcasts. Low-lifes. The fact that they were tending their flocks at night meant they were working for someone else. Or shunned. Or ashamed. They were low class, working the job no one wanted to do, spending their nights away from their families, out in the cold, with a bunch of smelly, dumb sheep. Not to mention the oppression they were under from the Roman Empire, coming in, taking 60-80% of everything they owned.

Then seemingly out of no where, while they were just going about a typical night, the heavens ripped open, angels appeared, began to sing, and declared a message they never thought they would hear.

The Messiah has come.

The Israelites waited 400 years for that message. They prayed, cried out, believed, lost faith, came back again, offered sacrifices and held onto the hope that someday, their Messiah would show up and bring them out of Roman oppression.

Finally, the promise God gave to their ancestors was coming to pass – and these shepherds, these nobodies, were a part of that story.

Joy had come.

So they packed up their bags, took their sheep home and set out in search of the one the angels declared.

And they found the baby.
And rejoiced over His birth.
And spread word about what was said concerning Him.

But then an interesting thing happened.

He had to grow.

Years of waiting, centuries of crying out, trusting God for salvation from the Romans, countless angelic visitations about the promised Messiah, shepherds and wise men and kings coming from thousands of miles to see this baby…

Only for Him to fade into obscurity for another 30 years.

No Roman overthrow.
No flashy thunderbolts or angelic armies.
No Messiah on a white horse, leading the charge, slaughtering all their enemies.

Their Messiah wasn’t much to be joyful about.

Instead of displaying unlimited power, he was captured by their enemies.
Instead of fighting their Roman oppressors, he challenged their religious leaders.
Instead of being on their side, telling them they were doing everything right, He showed them how far they had wandered from God, and offered them a way back.

I’m sure even these shepherds wondered why the angels came with a message of great joy.

God didn’t show up as they expected. He didn’t do what they wanted. He went pushed against their ideals, lived in obscurity and was a bit of a trouble maker among their religious leaders.

He left them questioning if He really was there, and really was the Messiah.
Even His own disciples doubted.

The joy people experienced at His birth was swallowed up in obscurity, accusations, and His eventual death.

Joy didn’t come as they expected.
But it still came.

Because true joy doesn’t come through circumstances, worldly freedom, or having everything you always wanted. True joy comes in unexpected ways, through a life renewed in Him.

And so, my brothers and sisters, as you walk through situations that seem to be joy-less, may you find joy in Him. May you be reminded that joy doesn’t come in having an easy life full of material possessions, but in walking with Christ. And may you, as you journey closer to the birth of our Savior, find joy overflowing again.

Where have you seen joy bubbling up in unexpected places?

6 replies
  1. Louis Tullo
    Louis Tullo says:

    “Joy didn’t come as they expected.
    But it still came”

    This is great! I love how Christ shatters our temporal/carnal notions of greatness. It makes me reflect on Philippians where it speaks of Christ emptying Himself and becoming a servant in an even greater way. Thanks be to God for being generous in mercy and grace!

    • Jason Vana
      Jason Vana says:

      It always amazes me how the things we think will bring us joy actually don’t, and the things that we don’t think will bring us joy actually do. God is interesting that way.

  2. Loren Pinilis
    Loren Pinilis says:

    It always amazes me how the time when people feel most joyous (truly joyous) is when they’re in the middle of trials. God holds them so close then, and he feels so precious to them. I know it’s been that way for me. You feel grateful for the blessings you do have.

    • Jason Vana
      Jason Vana says:

      Same here, Loren. I have experienced such an amazing closeness with God in the midst of trials that have grown me and given me true joy, something I thought would only come if I was given everything I wanted. He’s truly great that way!

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