Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people." (Luke 2:10)
I find it comforting to know that the angel who appeared to the shepherds might have been familiar with joy. I realize that angels are messengers, and I do hope they were able to identify with this joyful message. I also hope they were able to "feel the joy." I find it interesting that the angel began the announcement by trying to alleviate the fear of anything that might compete with the message. I'm not sure I could have "gotten there" in this dramatic event, but the shepherds got over their fear and were curious and faith-filled enough to turn the message into action.
In the past several years, I have often recalled the story of Carlyle Marney, the great Texas and North Carolina pastor, who when asked if he was happy, replied, "I've lived too long and seen too much to be happy, but I do have moments of joy." I have been encouraged by that statement, and I try to "look for the joy."
I had a moment of joy recently in my office as I was writing music. I had completed a task in music composition, and, after having worked at another church whose ministry did not allow much time for my music writing, I was thrilled to once again participate in my craft. I did not realize how much I had missed it. Though there was no one around but me, I leaned back in my chair, threw my hands upward, and exclaimed, "I love this stuff!" It was a moment of exuberance, clarity, and delight... in my work, of all things! I remember the feeling. Even though I loved my work at the church, I knew a special joy had returned, and I didn't even realize that some of my joy had been "on hiatus."
As you have probably experienced, the holidays can be difficult and delightful, filled with a myriad of emotions and realizations: happiness, sadness, chaos, wonderful memories, painful memories, stress, financial worries, expectations, obligations... you name it, the holidays have it in abundance.
It might serve us well to approach our challenges with the same idea the angels employed... "Listen up! Don't be afraid. This is going to be good!" Maybe along the way, we will all be surprised by a moment of joy, or maybe joy will be experienced by someone else who really needs a little extra care this year. With a little bit of effort, we can all be "messengers of good news," as we show up, create opportunities, and share the joy of that holy night in this special season of love.
May we be surprised with joy!