I remember when Alycia first told me that she was pregnant. I had come home from hanging out with some friends and there was a card waiting for me on the table. I opened it and she let me know that I was going to be a father. We were trying to have a baby, but it was still a moment of unexpected joy. I had thought about being a father before, but in that moment, all those thoughts became a reality.
Since Clara was born 20 months ago, there have been a lot of moments of unexpected joy. I didn’t realize how much joy I would get from simply watching her sleep when she was a newborn. I didn’t know how much joy I would get from hanging out together every Thursday on my day off. I didn’t know how much joy I would get from seeing Alycia as a mother.
As Brad reminded us this past weekend, it’s possible that Mary didn’t have as much joy from her unexpected pregnancy. As a young, unmarried woman, her pregnancy would have been scandalous. Living in a small village, she would have had to deal with disapproving glares and whispered rumors all around her. When Mary finally saw excitement and approval in Elizabeth’s eyes, Mary probably got her moment of unexpected joy.
Whether we can identify with Mary or not, we’ve all probably needed the type of moment that she got with Elizabeth. Facing the judgment of others, the loss of a job, a challenging round of finals or a strained relationship at home, we could use a moment of joy.
That’s the great thing about Christmas: Jesus brought with him the most unexpected moment of joy ever, and we still feel its reverberations today.
Hundreds of years trapped in the sorrow of sin, exile and subjugation, the nation of Israel was a lot like Mary, desperate for a moment of joy and relief. That joy came in the most unexpected form: a baby boy born to an unwed mother. Because joy broke through in that little town of Bethlehem, we can trust that Jesus will bring us joy even in the most unexpected of places.
Jesus wants to give us joy this holiday season and every other season. He wants to give us joy when we expect it, when we’re gathered around the Christmas tree or celebrating a birthday with friends. He also wants to bring us joy, though, when we’re sitting in a hospital waiting room or stuck in traffic on the freeway.
The joy that Jesus wants to give us may not be what we’re expecting or hoping for, but it’s there if we have eyes to see it. The joy may not come from an answered prayer, but in the strength to persevere. The joy may not come from everything we want to happen, but the ability to remain content regardless.
Jesus has given us joy and it will show up even in the most unexpected places. And when we’ve received that joy, we can be people who help others find it when they’re least expecting it.