Advent Week 4: Joy

A Prophecy of Joy by Dr. Allan Moseley

“The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
a light has dawned
on those living in the land of darkness.

You have enlarged the nation
and increased its joy.
The people have rejoiced before you
as they rejoice at harvest time
and as they rejoice when dividing spoils.

For you have shattered their oppressive yoke
and the rod on their shoulders,
the staff of their oppressor,
just as you did on the day of Midian.

For every trampling boot of battle
and the bloodied garments of war
will be burned as fuel for the fire.

For a child will be born for us,
a son will be given to us,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
He will be named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

The dominion will be vast,
and its prosperity will never end.
He will reign on the throne of David
and over his kingdom,
to establish and sustain it
with justice and righteousness from now on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord of Armies will accomplish this.” – Isaiah 9:2-7

Happiness is something everybody wants but a lot of people don’t find. When Isaiah wrote the ninth chapter of his prophecy, it was not a happy time for God’s people, and on their horizon was darkness and gloom. In that situation, God gave Isaiah a word of hope and joy for the future, and the reason for joy would be the birth of a child. Over 700 years before the birth of Jesus, God allowed Isaiah to see the coming of Christmas.

Isaiah’s message prepares us to celebrate the gift of joy in the Messiah. Verse 3 says to the Messiah, “You have increased its joy; they rejoice before you.” People who know Jesus experience joy. On the night Jesus was born, an angel said, “I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). The coming of Jesus is “good news of a great joy.”

Also, Isaiah leads us to contemplate the greatness of joy in the Messiah. Isaiah gives five illustrations of the joy we have in Jesus the Messiah.

First, Jesus’s joy is like light. Verse 2 says, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.” When Jesus was born, God put the light of a star in the sky.

Second, Jesus’s joy is like a harvest. Verse 3 says about the coming Messiah, “They [the people of God] rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest.” The time of harvest was a time of great joy, and Jesus gives that kind of joy.

Third, Jesus’s joy is like a victory. Verse 3 says, “As they are glad when they divide the spoil.” That describes the joy soldiers felt when they realized they would live and not die.

Fourth, Jesus’s joy is like freedom. Verse 4 says the Messiah is going to “break the yoke of his burden and the staff for his shoulder.” The yoke was the apparatus on the shoulders of a beast of burden that bound him to his master. “The staff for his shoulder” refers to the rod used to beat animals. That’s the condition of people without Jesus — they’re yoked to sin and punished by it. Jesus offers freedom from sin; he said, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:34, 36).

Fifth, Jesus’s joy is like peace. Verse 5 says, “Every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire.” That’s a picture of the end of war. When Jesus returns and sets up his eternal reign, war will not exist. He’ll bring eternal peace.

Finally, Isaiah helps us anticipate the glory of joy in the Messiah. Isaiah gave the Messiah four names in verse 6 — Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. Jesus’s counsel for our lives is wonderful. He’s also the Mighty God. When Jesus was born, deity came wrapped in humanity. And Isaiah called Jesus Everlasting Father. Verse 6 calls him a child, but he’s also a Father. That affirms the truth that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and they are one. And Jesus is the Prince of Peace. He brings peace with God, peace within ourselves, and peace with others. How do we know that joy is available to us? Verse 6 says, “Because a child will be born to us, a son will be given.” Joy comes through the gift of that child. Jesus, the Messiah born in Bethlehem, brings joy.

The Gospel of Great Joy by Dr. Ken Keathley

“Behold! I bring you good news of great joy.” – Luke 2:10

The original word in the above verse that is translated as “good news” — “euangelion” — is often also translated as “gospel.” So the angel announced to the shepherds the “gospel of great joy.” Today we typically identify gospel with the first four books of the New Testament — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John — or we use the term as shorthand for the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord. But when we understand the expression’s original meaning, it’s easy to see why the angel used it to announce the birth of Jesus.

The expression had a specific use in the gentile world. In the days of the Roman Empire, royal heralds would proclaim “gospels” — official proclamations of good news. Typically these notifications were birth announcements of an heir to the throne or proclamations that a ruler had ascended to the throne.

The expression also had an Old Testament background. Similar to “joy” are the words “jubilant” and “jubilee.” When people express great joy or happiness they are said to be jubilant. A jubilee typically is a joyous celebration, commemorating a special event. The Old Testament word for jubilee — “yovel” — comes from the horns that were blown to announce a very special event, the Year of Jubilee.

In Old Testament times, every 50th year was to be a Year of Jubilee (Lev 25:8-13). During a Jubilee year slaves were freed, debts were forgiven, and farmlands were rested and restored to their rightful owners. A Jubilee year was to be a time of forgiveness, amnesty and making things right. No wonder that year was called a “jubilee” — a time of great joy. The Old Testament prophets described the proclamation of the Year of Jubilee as a “gospel.”

Isaiah likened Israel’s deliverance from her enemies as a Year of Jubilee, and the news of this deliverance as gospel. He declared, “How beautiful are the feet of him who brings good news … who brings good news of great happiness!” The prophet foretold the jubilant response: “They lift up their voice; together they sing for joy” (Isa 52:7-8).

So, when the angel said, “I bring you good news of great joy,” the shepherds would have had some idea of what he meant. The news of the birth of our great God and King, Jesus of Nazareth, is an occasion for jubilation. Our Savior, our Liberator, our Redeemer has come. He brings mercy, deliverance, and righteousness. This truly is the gospel of great joy.

Good News of God’s Great Joy by Professor Ronjour Locke

“For a child will be born for us,
a son will be given to us,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
He will be named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

The dominion will be vast,
and its prosperity will never end.
He will reign on the throne of David
and over his kingdom,
to establish and sustain it
with justice and righteousness from now on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord of Armies will accomplish this.” – Isaiah 9:6-7

Christmas is a season of joy. Luke tells of the angelic outburst of praise when they announced the birth of the Christ (Luke 2:8-14). The shepherds who received the angels’ message rejoiced after they saw him with their own eyes (Luke 2:20). Even our hectic world pauses for a moment to praise him with carols celebrating his birth.

In the choir of praises that spans worlds, time, and cultures, there’s one voice that sings louder than angels and peoples. It is the voice of the Triune God. The prophet Isaiah reveals this to us. He anticipated a day when a King would be born to fulfill God’s promise that a descendant of David would rule from his throne forever (cf. 2 Samuel 7:12-16). The government will rest on his shoulders, and he will have a new name: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). His kingdom will forever be marked with justice and righteousness, peace and prosperity (Isaiah 9:7). How will these things be? Isaiah answers, “The zeal of the LORD of Armies will accomplish this.”

“Zeal” is an intense word. The Hebrew word can be translated as either “zeal” or “jealousy.” There is certainly a bad kind of zeal. This is when someone longs for something to be what it shouldn’t be, like the jealousy for another person’s spouse. God’s zeal is different; he is intensely passionate for the world to be as it should be — right, just, and at peace. And it’s God’s zeal — his passion, his joy — to send his Son, to seat him on his throne, to bless him with an eternal kingdom. No one has more Christmas cheer than God!

We live in a dark world. The wickedness, injustice, and chaos of our world smothers us like a thick blanket. We are constantly reminded of the violence, disorder, and hatred. And we are very much aware of our contribution to the mess, for sin still plagues our own hearts and lives. But in this dark world the light of hope shines. The Sovereign has not abandoned us to despair. He has given us a King, and he will soon return. He is making all things new. He will bring shalom.

God will not allow the evils and disorder of our world to last forever. Through Christ, he is intensely determined to make his glory known far as the curse is found, and he will rid the cosmos of this curse once and for all through his Son.

So this Christmas, let’s join our great God in his joy. Let’s celebrate the coming of Christ Jesus, our Lord. Let’s long together for his soon return. And let’s announce to the nations that the Savior has come. Christ is the good news of God’s great joy.

Joy to the World by Dr. Scott Pace

“On that day you will say:
‘I will give thanks to you, Lord,
although you were angry with me.
Your anger has turned away,
and you have comforted me.

Indeed, God is my salvation;
I will trust him and not be afraid,
for the Lord, the Lord himself,
is my strength and my song.
He has become my salvation.’

You will joyfully draw water
from the springs of salvation,
and on that day you will say,

‘Give thanks to the Lord; proclaim his name!
Make his works known among the peoples.
Declare that his name is exalted.

Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things.
Let this be known throughout the earth.
Cry out and sing, citizen of Zion,
for the Holy One of Israel is among you
in his greatness.’” – Isaiah 12:1-6

Perhaps the clearest expression of joy in the Christmas season is the look on a child’s face when they are overwhelmed with jubilation as they open their present and their greatest hope is realized. In its simplest form, this familiar picture is a reflection of the true joy of the Advent season when we rejoice over God’s gift that meets our greatest need, fulfills our highest hopes, and satisfies our deepest desires.

In this prophetic passage, Isaiah’s song captures the anticipation and “joy” (vv. 3, 6) of receiving God’s greatest gift. The Lord promises his people that a time will come, “in that day” (vv. 1, 3), when they will experience God’s forgiveness and compassion that meets their greatest need (v. 1). He will fulfill their hope with “salvation” for all who “trust” in him (v. 2) and satisfy their deepest desires with his living water (v. 3). Their “joy” will be expressed by effusive “thanks to the Lord” as they “proclaim” his greatness “among the peoples” and make his saving grace “known in all the earth” (vv. 4-5). Their “joy” will overflow as they exalt his name (v. 4) and rejoice in the “Holy One” (v. 6).

As God’s people anticipated ‘that day’ when their Savior would arrive, they experienced joy through faith in God’s promise as they awaited his presence. So, when Jesus was born, the angel delivered “good news of great joy” for all people (Lk 2:10) and when the wise men saw the star that indicated the Savior’s birth, “they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” (Matt 2:10). This same joy is for all those who receive God’s gift of salvation through personal faith in Christ.

While this joy is relished and festively celebrated during the Advent season, it certainly is not meant to be limited to a holiday or determined by our circumstances. Yet, oftentimes we forfeit or stifle joy in our daily lives when our misguided efforts and misplaced hopes leave us disappointed, discouraged, and dissatisfied. This will always happen when we search for joy apart from Christ. Authentic joy will never be found in a situation or a season, it can only be found in our Savior!

True joy is a gladness of heart and satisfaction of the soul that delights in God’s promises and celebrates his presence. Joy is not simply an emotion, but it springs from the soul that is satisfied in Christ and it flows through our emotions to produce gladness and feelings of delight. It is supplied by the refreshing source of salvation, God’s Son, the Savior he promised who purchased our redemption. As a result, we are assured that all of his promises are secured in Christ (2 Cor 1:20). He also sent his Spirit who supernaturally produces the fruit of joy within us (Gal 5:22; 1 Thes 1:6). So, through the promised birth of our Savior and through the indwelling presence of his Spirit, we can experience the “fullness of joy” (Ps 16:11) that delights in the hope of all his promises and celebrates the glory of his abiding presence.

Therefore, let us live with joy because in Christ we have the ultimate gift that meets our greatest need, fulfills our highest hopes, and satisfies our deepest desires. And, perhaps most importantly, may we share this joy with the nations as we exalt his name and make his salvation known to all peoples!

Prayer by Mrs. Krystal Wilson

Our sovereign Lord, our source of true and everlasting joy, we come thankful today. Thank you for the Christmas season and all of the many joys that it brings. Thank you for sweet memories and the ability to share what we have with others. Thank you for coming to dwell among us to take our burdens and sin as your own, for living a perfect life that we could never live and paying a debt we could not pay, and for clothing us in your righteousness that we might dwell with You forever. In light of this truth, help us to enjoy each moment we spend with others, to see your grace in everything we receive and to take more pleasure in what we can give, to joyfully consider others as higher than ourselves, and to have humble, happy hearts full of joy. Help us to keep our eyes on you this season and tell others of the great source of our joy. As we celebrate your coming, help us to also look to your return — when our earthly work shall end, when our pain will pass away, when our sin dies a final death and the day when we can rest in the fullness of joy in your presence, forevermore.

Office of Marketing and Communications

[email protected]