Advent began with a promise. First it was given to Adam and Eve and then to Abraham. When it was given to Abraham he contrived to “help” God out. That certainly made a mess of things. Isaac and Jacob had their own problems with living out the hope of the coming Seed. In practical terms the promise remained just that, a promise, and not much joy, except in the birth of their own sons, was evidenced regarding it. But that was all about to change.
That first Christmas night when the angel spoke to the shepherds his message was Joy! “Fear not,” he said, “for I bring you good tidings of great joy.” The message resounds in Isaac Watts’ great hymn, “Joy to the World, the Lord is come”. The promise was fulfilled. When I had promised my princess a parakeet she was happy. She was much more joyous, however, at getting the bird than getting the promise.
The promise of God was not a single event, however. The promise of God in Christ is new every day. In the book of Lamentations, Jeremiah makes this exclamation, “Because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” The Advent of the Messiah is a promise fulfilled, but in Him all the promises of God are fulfilled. Paul put it like this, “For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God.” Therefore we relive the joy of that first Advent day every day of our lives. We do so because in Him all the mercies and promises of God are renewed to us day by day. To paraphrase Isaac Watts we can sing, “Joy to the world because our Lord is still here.”
One of the most common commands in the New Testament is to rejoice. The “good tidings of great joy” have not disappeared. Christ is alive and well and dwells with His people. Christians too easily forget the joy of Christmas with the rush of the new year. But God says, “Don’t forget. My joy is for you every day.” We need to retain the joy of that first Christmas message and let our lives so shine for Jesus that all may see our joy in Him.
J. Edward Ruark wrote the hymn, “You May Have the Joy Bells.” This lively hymn reminds us to find God and His joy in our lives every day.
‘You will meet with trials as you journey home; grace sufficient He will give to overcome; though unseen by mortal eye, He is with you ever nigh, and He’ll keep the joy-bells ringing in your heart. (Refrain) Joy-bells ringing in your heart, joy-bells ringing in your heart; take the Savior here below with you ev’rywhere you go; He will keep the joy-bells ringing in your heart.”