Christmas Advent Day 19: Preparing with Joy
Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshipped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:7-11, ESV)
When was the last time you were filled with great joy? I have to give a lot of thought to this question because it’s not something I experience daily. It’s not to say I am not content most days, but to be filled with great joy means something monumental has happened. A few examples stand out in my life: graduations, my wedding day, the birth of my babies, closings on our homes, and the resurrection of my marriage. And then there is the obvious best day—the day I came to Christ and received forgiveness from my sins, a heavenly home, and eternal life.
But moments of great joy are not our daily norm, even though each day may contain a joy that comes from knowing and being loved by Christ. Oftentimes, joy follows a period of waiting, and waiting was what the world was doing prior to the coming of the Promised Messiah. At times, waiting begins to test our faith, causing doubt and fear to set in as we begin to wonder if it’ll ever happen. I’m sure the wise men experienced those feelings.
It should cause our hearts to wonder how the wise men noticed the star and knew to follow it with anticipation. It’s thought that Daniel, many years prior, taught the wise men of the day (who would teach those after them) prophecy that gave specific details surrounding the Promised One. These men studied the stars, and, based on what they had been taught about the 70 weeks referred to in Daniel’s book, understood the time was ripe for the Messiah to appear. Given the appearance of this bright star of David, a star that was different and easily spotted by the Magi, they acknowledged that it held special meaning and chose to follow it expectantly.
The journey was long; scholars believe it was between 400 and 500 miles. Did they walk, ride on camels or Arabian horses, or travel in a caravan? We can’t be sure, but we know they came. We don’t know how long the journey took them either, but it’s suggested it was within a 2-year period or shorter. What is important to note, though, is their pursuit of Jesus. Anyone who comes to Him will find Him; it’s a promise we have from Scripture, and it’s no less true today. And here is where joy comes in—great joy is found in Jesus Christ.
How does my own heart respond to His love for me? His death on the cross and His resurrection opened the way for us to be rescued and be forever safe in His care. He still invites us today with these words: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, NIV). Friends, this should cause our hearts to erupt with great joy—we have been extended an invitation from the King of kings. He wants us, He loves us, and He’s made a way for us to be with Him forever.
The holidays can be a joyful time, a time when we enjoy traditions and festivities with our loved ones. But the truth is that we are waiting once again—waiting for the return of this same Jesus we celebrate at Christmastime. He won’t return humbly and simply when He comes again; He will come suddenly and with authority and majesty. He is our coming King, and we wait. How? We wait with great joy, because He has promised to return for us—not as a baby this time but as our Savior, the all-powerful Son of God. And if we are a part of His redeemed Church, He will take us home to heaven, forever to reign with Him. If ever there were a reason for great joy, this is it!