Let’s talk about the other half of the phrase Comfort and Joy. Joy. More specifically, joy to the world.
Christmas is such a time for joy. Glad tidings of comfort and joy. The Lord has come. Let earth receive her king.
But let’s look at the time before that joy. Let’s look at the conflict in the story.
There was a young teenager named Mary who was engaged to a man named Joseph. A good man – a man of God. But she becomes pregnant. Imagine becoming pregnant while engaged to a good man. And the baby is not his child. There’s so much grief in that – for Mary, for Joseph, for the families of both, and for the village in which they live. It’s not something that is easy. Nine whole months of people talking about you. They say Mary is crazy and a harlot. They say Joseph should get rid of her, leaving her and her baby to fend for themselves.
There was a man named Zechariah who had no children with his wife Elizabeth because she was barren. They were old and childless, but they had prayed for a baby. That is so hard.
There were shepherds, keeping watch over their flocks at night. They were doing what they did every single day – the lower class life of working and herding sheep. No kings came to them. They had no ambition – no dreams. They could not hope for joy.
Long before any of this, there were these two nations, divided from one nation: Israel and Judah. They had been united in the glory days of David and Solomon and they longed for that time when God would bless them once again. They felt abandoned, punished. All they had was a cryptic prophecy that a leader would rise up and be their uniting king once more. The Babylonians came and the Assyrians and the Romans. They lived in a war-torn land. They were oppressed and afraid. Many were forced to immigrate. They were spread out – families torn apart.
So much pain.
Can we imagine what all of this was like? Can you identify with any of these stories? A couple with an unplanned pregnancy. Another couple with no hope of having children. A lower class citizen, feeling hopeless – feeling that there is no place you can go to escape the life you have. A displaced people, longing for the glory days – or even just for home.
But then, joy.
All of these stories end in joy.
For Zechariah and Elizabeth, God gave a baby. So much joy!
For the shepherds, God sent the Lamb of God – and proclaimed his coming with angels!
For Israel and Judah, God sent the Messiah, the hope for which they had prayed for centuries!
For Mary and Joseph, God sent Jesus – a baby, the Lamb of God, the Messiah. A small child who would take away the sins of the world.
God sends joy to us. He has already done so. And what we see right now as pain, sadness, or hopelessness, we will one day see as joy. What a beautiful thing to remember this season – that in Jesus the baby, we have been given eternal comfort… and joy.