Thursday, December 23, 2010

J.O.Y. to the World

Back before I had knee surgery and a daughter, I used to be a runner. And, as any runner will tell you, there exists what is known as a "runner's high"-- a blast of endorphins that kicks in after about 20 - 25 minutes of running-- that can make the 2nd half of a run seem even easier than the first. So exhilarating is this boost, that at times I would be able to finish a run in a dead sprint.

Unfortunately, many runners don't push past the pain of the first 10 - 20 minutes to experience the benefit of this natural energy kick.

There is also something to be said for the phenomenon of getting more and more excited for something the closer we get to receiving it. To further this idea of a run, knowing that the end is in sight (or at least close) can inspire one to pick up the pace incrementally, running at full tilt for the last few strides.

With Christmas only a day away, stores will be buzzing with last minute shoppers, children will be giddy in anticipation of their hopeful Christmas loot, churches will be packed with people dressed in their finest clothes, radio stations will broadcast non-stop carols, gas stations will jack up prices to rob holiday travelers, airports will be bustling.

The excitement will practically be palpable.

People will be filled with joy.

But, will they be filled with J.O.Y.? Will they put Jesus first, Others second and Themselves last?

J.O.T.? Er, to make the acronym functional, will you:
Put Jesus first?
Put Others second?
Put Yourself last?
On this last day of Advent, I offer one more example of how we should prepare for Christ's birth given to us over the course of the past four weeks: Jesus' earthly father, Joseph.

Joseph was a man about whom little is known (at least from Scripture). But, it may be safe to say that Joseph lived by this motto: "Put Jesus first, Others second and Yourself last." He decided to follow the advice of the angel, taking Mary as his wife and raising Jesus as his own.

He decided to honor and uphold Mary's dignity, choosing to marry her despite the unusual circumstances of her pregnancy.

He decided to put his own desires for a "normal" marriage and experience as a father aside and instead be joyful. In return, he had the blessing of spending the rest of his life with Jesus. Imagine that. Imagine the joy you experience when in the presence of your spouse or your child(ren) or your best friend. Now, imagine that person to be Jesus! What joy you would undoubtedly experience!

However, will we be filled with J.O.Y. tomorrow when Christ once again comes into our world? Will we be so overcome with joy to sing at the top of our lungs, "Joy to the world! The Lord has come! Let Earth receive her King!" Heaven will be singing. Will nature?

Like the song says, "Let every heart prepare Him room." If we have done that, if we have pushed past the pain of crowded shopping malls and endless holiday tasks and found time to pray, offered more of ourselves to those in need (even within our own families), spent more time thinking about what we can give instead of what we want to receive-- if we have truly prepared and made room for Jesus to be the most important part of our lives-- then let us not be ashamed to spread J.O.Y. tomorrow and every day of our lives. Let us sing, "Joy to the world!"

Let us not be afraid to put Jesus first tomorrow. Let us be enlivened in putting others second. And let us truly believe that in doing so, and in putting ourselves last, we may come to experience everlasting joy. J.O.Y. that is independent of circumstances, J.O.Y. that is constant. J.O.Y. that leads us from a birth in a dirty stable, to a cross on a hill, to a grave with a stone rolled away...

"...and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven and heaven and nature sing!"

Joy to the world.

J.O.Y. to the world, indeed.