Joy Ignited

by Mindy Kiker

Image by Jone Vasatis_Flickr.com_7962560356_374f90ea74__CC BY-ND 2.0

“My spirit rejoices in God my savior.” Luke 1:47

As we prepare our hearts for Christmas, we rejoice in God made flesh, our Savior Jesus Christ. An unusual “Christmas” verse comes to mind as I ponder rejoicing in my savior — a verse that takes us forward to the culmination of the Christmas story where we read of Jesus’ commitment to rescue us by choosing not only to be born of a woman but also to die on a cross:

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)

How does Jesus find joy in a brutal and painful death? He keeps His eyes on the prize. He kicks Satan in the teeth and purchases our freedom once and for all. For that great prize, he is willing to sacrifice His own life and call it a joy. Praise be to God!

Mary too, is asked to endure a type of sacrifice. Everyone knew from the Scriptural prophesies that the Messiah would be born to a virgin, but think about what it would mean to be “that virgin” — the one with child before the wedding vows are spoken. Mary, a betrothed but not-yet-married young lady, has no business being pregnant.

Mary surely is strengthened by the joy set before her as she allows God to invade her body (“I’m pregnant!”), to put her reputation on the line (“What will they think of me?”), and possibly to sabotage her marriage (“Will Joseph still take me as his wife?”). From this position of vulnerability, Mary’s joyous song of praise stirs hope in our hearts (Luke 1:46-55). Mary’s faith is on fire. Her joy is ignited.

One of the Hebrew words for “joy” is translated as “ecstatic delight, wild joy, and exhilaration.” This is the word used to describe the ecstatic delight everyone feels when they are told that Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin, is to bear a son (Luke 1:14). The same exhilaration fills Elizabeth when John leaps in her womb as pregnant Mary comes into their presence (Luke 1:44).

When we joyfully celebrate the many miracles that surround the arrival of God’s son, we also admire the strength of the man and woman who both said “Yes” to birth and nurture a son destined to be rejected (Isaiah 53:3), whose hands and feet would be “pierced” through (Psalm 22:16). Mary and Joseph know that the Messiah will be killed as a sacrifice for the sins of His people (Isaiah 53:5–9), and yet they agree to bring Him into the world and raise Him as their child.

As we explore the Christmas story, we find that Joseph and Mary’s faithfulness comes from a deep place of certainty in the Word of God. They do not need to know exactly how God will accomplish what He promises, but they know that He is able. Their hope is built on the nature of God, not on the nature of their circumstances. They know that He will never leave them nor forsake them. The details are unimportant. The great “I Am” has spoken. His joy is their strength. Jehovah. is. enough.

It is my prayer that the Lord God will enable you to walk in the strength of His joy and to display His glory to others. May His genuine love, abundant joy, and comforting peace fill you this season.