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Who knows joy like the marginalized?

2017-12-23

Last week I cycled past a sign in a mall window that heralded "Joy to the City." It gave me pause. What joy could they possibly be talking about? What does the world mean by joy? Is joy simply the merriment, twinkling and jingling that accompany the "holiday season”? Is joy the fast-fading excitement of opening gifts? If that’s all it is, what an underwhelming form this joy takes. 

I don’t believe those who have everything they want can experience true joy. Joy is best appreciated by the oppressed, the poor and the broken. That’s why God chose the lowest caste of people in an occupied nation 2,000 years ago to hear the angels say: “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people” (Luke 2:10).

Real joy is elusive and counterintuitive. When the poor and destitute worship boisterously (Luke 2:20), it can only come from something beyond themselves. When the prisoner sings loudly (Acts 16:25), it can only come from something independent of circumstances. When those who have never had a break show generosity (2 Cor 8:1-4), it can only come from something deep inside. Contentment… gratitude… hope… joy.

This week I’m thinking often about a handful of Christian villages in Asia who were denied permission to gather and celebrate Christmas. When believers met anyway, the government raided the village and threw their leaders in prison. Undeterred, a fellow believer said, “If they want to keep us from worshipping Jesus in our homes, then we will gladly fill their whole prison and worship there instead.”

As the old gospel goes,

This joy that I have, the world didn’t give it to me. The world didn’t give it and the world can’t take it away.

Jesus’ birth is still good news! All people can experience it, but especially the marginalized, the poor, the downtrodden. Jesus alone brings healing to the broken, forgiveness to the sinner, hope to the devastated. The grace, reconciliation and redemption he brokered for us lifts the humble.

Privileged as we all are in Canada, may we experience in some way this good news that brings great joy to all people. And may we recommit ourselves to giving that good news to all people—especially those marginalized because of their language, some of which are reading the Christmas story in their language this week for the first time.

Merry Christmas!

Roy

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