Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Joy Set Before Us

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author 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)

I remember when joy finally unpacked its bags and settled down to become a permanent resident in my heart. It was a major milestone along the road on my spiritual journey. (Hmm. Mixed metaphor. How to fix? Okay, pretend I live in an RV.)

Before then, joy came and went, staying overnight, or for a few weeks at a time. And even when it was here, the delight was always overshadowed by the spectre of death and pain that haunts our earthly existence—the threat of happenings in my life that could send it packing, or even destroy it altogether.

Then one day it came to stay, with little fanfare, bringing its friend peace with it. I don’t remember the date, or the circumstances, just the quiet coming into the depths of my being in a way I knew was forever.

Joy moved in when I finally got a good glimpse of the end of the journey. When eternity finally became more real me to me than this present mortal life. I caught sight of the joy set before me, and everything between here and there faded into relative insignificance.

There is no such thing as an unhappy ending for one who belongs to Jesus. For one who has put their trust in Him, pain will always be temporary. Joy will be eternal. That’s why the Christmas bells peal wide and deep. The width and depth of God’s grace and love have swallowed up death and pain forever.

We have to wait a while. But only a while. One day God will wipe away the tears. When that truth really dawns in our hearts, joy will find an eternal home there.

This post is in memory of my father, who went to heaven on December 22, 1953.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas is About the Joy

My friend, Diane, shared with me a story I’d like to pass along here.

As she was driving one day, she heard this live report on the radio. A CBC reporter (Canadian Broadcasting Corp.) was traveling on a commuter train in Quebec and interviewing passengers at random. He came across a priest who was visiting people in the parishes along the way. The priest answered the reporter’s standard questions – “Why are you using the train? Where are you going?” etc. Then, in a very impromptu manner, the reporter said that he didn’t often get a chance to talk privately with a priest, and he had a question that he’d been curious about:

“Do you ever wonder if all this stuff about God is true? Do you have moments of doubt?”

The priest thought for a moment, then answered “Yes. In the middle of the night I wake up and wonder if it’s all a fantastic hoax. But I get up the next morning and I can’t explain the JOY any other way.”

That’s why Christmas is so wonderful. It’s the promise of joy. Eternal joy.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat, of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come, the belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head: "There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men."

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: "God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men."

Till, ringing singing, on its way, the world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime, of peace on earth, good will to men!

(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), 1867)

May the Reason for the season fill your heart with quiet joy this Christmas and throughout the New Year.