It’s 11:15pm and I cannot sleep. I decided to get up and write down what is swirling around in my head.
Tonight I went to dress rehearsal for our Christmas at the Corner program at our church. Technically it is our second dress rehearsal, as last night we were joined by our children’s choirs, Surrender student choir and the Amazing Grey’s Senior adult choir. It’s been awhile since we’ve done this…..it seems like years. Last night and tonight, I felt joy swelling up in my heart as I listened and sang words celebrating Jesus and the reason for His coming to live with us, for the sacrifice He made for us on the cross, all because of God’s love for us. Joy. Everywhere I have turned in the last weeks, this word has resonated in the scriptures I have read and in the music I have listened to. But tonight I realized that the joy that was filling up that sanctuary was new. It was joy returning to our hearts and our lives. We were getting it…..we were feeling it.
A year and a half ago joy began to be sucked out of the world, and fear began filling the places in our hearts that were becoming void of joy. And we let it happen. Believers who knew what the joy of the Lord looked like, what it felt like and what it tasted like, began to allow fear to fill their minds and lives. No more smiling, no more touching, no more worshipping together. Slowly an ever present sense of fear began to fill all the places of our lives. It was being forced on us from every direction. It was mandated to us, along with masks and an endless flow of media. It divided us. And we let it happen. Churches became vacant and closed their doors. Yes, to follow the rules and to protect their people, but we also closed the doors to our homes. And we hid. Fearful. Joyless.
We unplugged from our faith families and we plugged into the world’s view of this new environment we lived it. We believed everything that was fed to us. We ended our relationship with gathering together. We stopped any kind of fellowshipping with other believers. And we waited for the new truth to tell us when we could be set free. And we continued to let it happen.
Christmas 2020 was dark. People still fearful. Masks still mandated. The world continued to yell at us. It was a joyless time that is normally a time of celebration for all believers to focus on the real reason for this season, the birth of the Messiah, our hope. We remembered the season, but we didn’t celebrate. We were still hiding. Joy seemed so far away.
But then something began to happen in 2021. We took off our masks. People began to turn off the continued rhetoric from the world, and we turned our minds to God. The almighty God, more powerful than any virus, stronger than any mask, more trustworthy than any government. We began to understand how to navigate through this time, respecting others and putting our faith and trust back where it belonged….in God.
But the effects of the last twenty-one months has taken it’s toll. People still struggle with fear. A fear they can’t shake. A fear that has now taken up residence in their hearts. People who once were faithful to church, now prefer streaming. People who once stood shoulder to shoulder with other believers lifting their voices in worship, now find themselves unable to return to their pre-pandemic way of life. For some, joy has left them.
But tonight, as I stood in the choir singing as loud as I could, I found great joy in singing about the birth of Jesus, about what He did for us on the cross, for the hope He gives us, for saving me and loving me that much! I looked at the faces around me and I saw the joy on their faces. Something warm and fuzzy was churning deep in my soul. Joy! I didn’t even know I missed it! I didn’t even realize that what the world had been trying to take away from us was the unexplainable, amazing inner joy that permeates the soul of a person when they understand who God is, what He did for them, how they can never do anything to be good enough to spend eternity with God except for asking for forgiveness and being completely forgiven. The joy of a Savior that gets us, and walks with us, and provides for us, and loves us unconditionally. Not happiness, people. But joy. Knowing He will never leave you or forsake you joy! Being made new and feeling it from the inside out kind of joy! The knowledge that God is in control kind of joy! Bigger than all the evil in this world kind of joy. Joy that can’t be adequately explained.
People. If you know Jesus as your personal Savior. If you have experienced that moment when you realized you were a sinner, and you confessed your sin and asked for forgiveness, then asked Jesus into your life forever and always. You know joy!
So I challenge all of you, break free, breathe in Jesus and experience the joy of this season! Our season. Our time to focus in on the reason for this season. Tell your children what real joy is. Tell your friends what real joy is. Tell your family what real joy is. Take yourselves to church this Sunday and surround yourself with other believers, sing as loud as you can, soak up the words the Lord gives your pastor, wear a mask if it makes you feel better, but find JOY once again.
“Weeping may spend the night (or 21 months) but there is joy in the morning.”