Advent Joy

Dec 17, 2009

Richard Gotthardt

In his book, The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey tells this story:

“Laszlo Tokes, the Romanian pastor whose mistreatment outraged the country and prompted rebellion against the Communist ruler Ceausescu, tells of trying to prepare a Christmas sermon for the tiny mountain church to which he had been exiled. The state police were rounding up dissidents, and violence was breaking out across the country. Afraid for his life, Tokes bolted his doors, sat down, and read again the stories in Luke and Matthew. Unlike most pastors who would preach that Christmas, he chose as his text the verses describing Herod’s massacre of the innocents. It was the single passage that spoke most directly to his parishioners. Oppression, fear, and violence, the daily plight of the underdog, they well understood.

The next day, Christmas, news broke that Ceausescu had been arrested. Church bells rang, and joy broke out all over Romania. Another King Herod had fallen. Tokes recalls, “All the events of the Christmas story now had a new, brilliant dimension for us, a dimension of history rooted in the reality of our lives … For those of us who lived through them, the days of Christmas 1989 represented a rich, resonant embroidery of the Christmas story, a time when the providence of God and foolishness of human wickedness seemed as easy to comprehend as the sun and the moon over the timeless Transylvanian hills.” [And] for the first time in four decades, Romania celebrated Christmas as a public holiday.”

As I (Richard) reflected on that story, I thought about joy in a fresh light.  Rather than focusing on my personal satisfaction, I thought of the joy I felt last Saturday night in hearing stories of women being loved and cared for by our Just Love team.  I thought of the woman who cried tears of both pain and hope to know that someone might care about her plight and her shame.  I thought of the way that so many of you pray, work, and give to bring joy to others.  The joy of the gospel- that the chains of our sin and shame are shattered by the power of Jesus’ cross- is ours.  The joy of announcing that good news to others is ours as well.  And to be part of working for and with Jesus in seeing freedom, restoration, and redemption anywhere and everywhere we can—joy is there, too!  It reminds me of the words of the angel to the shepherds- to ordinary people like you and I.  “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people!  For to you, this day, is born a Savior- He is Christ, the Lord!”  And so let us keep spreading- and living- this good news, this great joy- for all people.

Richard’s Ramblings

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