Last night was the SCCS Christmas production, and it was a joyous occasion. Months of hard work and waiting, increasing in anticipation for the event, which when it’s all said and done, brought much joy to all involved. There are (at least) two aspects to joy in the kingdom of God, culmination and community. It is easy to see joy as culmination in the Christmas story. The joy of community is a bit more challenging and nuanced, but equally as important.
The communities surrounding Elizabeth and Mary saw that the unfolding events were ushering in the advent of Messiah. Needless to say, there was much joy in the arrival of John and Jesus. The community aspect of joy is seen in the relationship between Elizabeth and Mary. Elizabeth, pregnant in her age well beyond child-bearing years, was the perfect person to receive Mary, also pregnant by the miraculous Holy Spirit conception promised by the angel. Mary, misunderstood and most likely ostracized, needed someone to believe in her and her service to God. They were able to rejoice in each other’s situation, even in the face of their inherent difficulties.
Kingdom joy of community is found when people experience joy on behalf of someone else. Rejoicing with those who rejoice, and mourning with those who mourn. Even during grief, joy is inherent in the hope that through community, there will come a time when the memories that bring sadness will ultimately bring joy.
Modern Christmas observances challenge this kingdom joy, because of the hope that receiving personal gifts will bring lasting joy. Everyone with children knows that the joy of getting the most desired gift wears off in about twenty minutes. When we look to find joy by focusing on ourselves, we discover it is deceptively fleeting. On the other hand, kingdom joy, the joy found in being part of the people of God, is as enduring as the fellowship we experience through the Holy Spirit as we give ourselves in proximity to one another.
Yes, Christmas is a time of giving. May we find opportunities to give of ourselves in ways that honor one another in the name of our Lord Jesus.
Grace and peace,