So far this Advent Season we have noticed Jesus’ reign. We saw Him reigning from the cross, giving us our greatest hope, and reigning from the manger which fills our souls with peace. This week, as we light three candles on our Advent wreaths, we ponder the joy and excitement of Christmas. We want to feel the same joy that filled the hearts of the shepherds and caused them to go throughout the village announcing the wonder of the birth of Christ. After being visited by Angels and worshiping Jesus reigning from His manger; they were filled with joy and shared with everyone the wonder of what had happened.
I was surprised by the way God showed me how to see His holy reign of joy. This revelation occurred during the process of two different conversations I had with two different women. Both had experienced great loss and their grief was intense. Neither expected me to provide an answer to solve their pain; it was a loss that no human could remedy. I was simply with them in their pain, listening to their broken hearts and crushed spirits. It was during the second conversation that I realized that glimpse of Jesus reigning from heaven was what I should write about this third week of Advent when we focus on joy.
Both women talked about heaven in the midst of their grief. Both women expressed that though that they could not imagine not feeling such overwhelming pain on earth, through their tears, they caught a glimpse of heaven’s joy. It somehow gave them strength to live until then. Though our conversations were about loss and grief, they were also about joy. Glimpses of joy were seen beyond the words and through the tears.
It helped me focus on the reality that if I want to see the Son of Man reigning at the right hand of the Father from heaven accurately, I must imagine the emotion of intense joy filling every breath I take. It is the joy that Jesus set His mind on as He willingly went to the cross (Hebrews 12:2). It is unlike any joy I have experienced on earth; it is a joy so intense that it melts away the combined sorrows any on earth have ever experienced. This is the joy the Bible depicts over and over. Revelation 7:9 describes:
“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.”
A true party was going on in heaven. It seems the beings who know joy most are angels. Even at Christmas, it was their joyful announcement that seemed to infect the shepherds. Angels express God’s joy when each of us receive His redemption. In Luke 15:10, Jesus explains: “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
The culmination of suffering with God in your pain is gaining a glimpse into heaven, where every tear will be wiped away (Revelation 7:17). Even the thought of joy like that was enough to bring strength to bear the burden of pain and grief these two women face on earth.
I loved the Scottish Liturgy 1982 we used this summer in Iona. Right before we sang the chorus that the angels sing in heaven—"Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the Highest—we spoke these words: One day we will be with you in heaven, but already we laugh with the saints and angels, and sing their joyful song."
Laughing and Singing with Angels, now there is true joy.