Advent Week 3, Day 5 – Joy

There are a lot of contrasts in life, aren’t there? Darkness and light, hot and cold, visible and invisible, being present and absent, birth and death, sorrow and joy, just to name a few.

Let’s listen in on a conversation of contrasts Jesus had with His disciples:

16 “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” 17 So some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?” 18 So they were saying, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” 19 Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. 21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. 23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

(John 16:16-24, English Standard Version)

Jesus was preparing His disciples for His upcoming death, burial, and resurrection. Jesus’ disciples did not pick up on Jesus’ message to them, and were talking among themselves as to what Jesus might be saying.

So Jesus used a very common illustration to help them understand – a woman birthing a baby.

Jesus knew that the impending events of His life – His death and burial – would be devastating to His followers. Jesus wanted to offer them hope that would carry them through their dark days of despair and sorrow to the light of His resurrection and its accompanying joy.

Notice that this was not a replacement of sorrow with joy; rather, it was a transformation of sorrow into joy. Jesus was not interested in simply helping His disciples to ease their pain or substitute one problem for another; instead, He was offering them a new way to live.

Jesus knew that His disciples wanted to ask Him, and yet, they didn’t and only talked among themselves. Did Jesus ridicule them for not asking? No. Instead, He invited them to ask, gave them permission to ask.

And Jesus’ offer to His disciples is open to us as well.

Like the disciples, how often do we try to figure out on our own what God wants us to be or to do, or what to do with the burden that seems unbearable?

In your imagination, when you finally talk to Jesus about what’s on your heart, can you see Jesus looking you in the eye, as He gently smiles and lovingly says to you, “I thought you’d never ask.”?

Let today be that day.
And may your sorrow be transformed into His joy.

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,
God of glory, Lord of love,