category: Advent

Advent Devotions: Day 29

Sunday, December 25

Isaiah 62:6-12; Psalm 97; Titus 3:4-7; Luke 2:1-20

The traditional English Christmas hymn, “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen,” contains the repeated and familiar refrain of “comfort and joy.” 

God rest you merry, gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay,
For Jesus Christ our Savior
Was born upon this day,
To save us all from Satan’s power
When we were gone astray:
O tidings of comfort and joy,
comfort and joy,
O tidings of comfort and joy.

This Advent season I do hope we can all pause for a moment and direct our attention to joy, a word that in some form (“joy,” “joyful,” and “rejoice”) appears at least 430 times in the Bible.

As Christians, we are often at our best providing comfort in times of sadness and need. The care and compassion that Christians show to neighbors and strangers alike are hallmarks of our faith, lived out daily without expectation of recognition or reward. To be sure, there is much sadness and need pervading our world; there is, though, also profound joy. Joy is everywhere; we can and should celebrate relationships, love for one another, the miracle of births, marriages and anniversaries, and even the simple acts of kindness that bring a smile to someone’s face.

The Psalmist gets it, I believe: “The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice” (97:1). “Zion hears and rejoices and the villages of Judah are glad because of your judgments, Lord” (97:8). “Light shines on the righteous and joy on the upright in heart” (97:11). “Rejoice in the Lord, you who are righteous, and praise his holy name” (97:12).

Joy at Christmastime is not a guilty pleasure; instead, it is a responsibility justified by God’s grace and mercy. There is immeasurable joy that comes from “the kindness and love of God our Savior,” allowing us to “become heirs having the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:4-7). Birth and renewal are to be celebrated this day and throughout the year.

Hold close those whom you love. “Never be silent day or night” (Isaiah 62:6), for the holy people should eat, drink, and sing praises to the Lord. With proclamations and banners, call on the Lord and celebrate the joy of his birth and the joy of our redemption. 

With joy in our hearts, we can revel in the birth of Jesus. In that wonderful passage from Luke we are cast back to a wondrous moment: “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord’” (2:8-11). Yes, great joy for all the people!

Merry Christmas, Gardner-Webb colleagues and friends! May the peace and joy of this season surround you now and throughout the year.

William M. Downs
President of Gardner-Webb University

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