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The joy of every heart

The joy of every heart
Photo by Kathleen Barry, UMNS

By Bishop L. Jonathan Holston

“But the angel said to them, do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”—Luke 2:11

Charles Wesley was a prolific hymn writer who penned several Advent and Christmas songs, but he was never happy with painting a picture of the nativity scene. In the hymn “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus,” he begins by alluding to scriptural prophecies of Christ and then moves on to a more personal application. Wesley continues: Christ is not only the “desire of every nation;” he is the “joy of every longing heart.” He is not only the child born with the government … on his shoulders (Isaiah 9:6); he is “born to reign in us forever.”

In essence, Charles Wesley shares a personal prayer from the heart for Jesus to come into history, into our lives and into our world. Our responsibility is to be fully present and alert to Jesus breaking into our lives.

In every moment, a choice must be made for where to focus our time, talent, gifts, service and witness.

Usually, during this time of year, there are lines everywhere. Lines of traffic to get into the parking lot to do Christmas shopping and a line for purchases made. Our children stand in line to make their Christmas wishes, and we stand in lines longer than usual for that favorite cup of coffee. Now, our lines of traffic are for COVID-19 testing and for purchasing cleaning supplies and paper products. With so many distractions around us—pandemic, unrest, divisiveness, as well as our own desire for things to return to normal—there is so much competition for our attention.

Yet despite all of the distractions, it is important to remember the true meaning of this season. We celebrate the coming of the Christ child in our midst. When we are enveloped in the dysfunction that surrounds us, we don’t recognize this gift. It is only when we resist the urge to feed the worst within us that we are able to reorient ourselves to God’s gift to the world and have a chance for hope.

As we celebrate Christmas, we take this time to reflect, meditate and pray, asking God to do a great work in our hearts. Indeed, we celebrate because God expects something amazing to happen in our lives. Jesus was sent on a mission to restore us and redeem us so we could fully know God and be known by him.

The angel tells the story of the Messiah’s birth, casting out any room for fear and instead proclaiming that this is indeed good news that will cause great joy. Choosing to believe the angel’s message takes a great measure of faith and courage.

This Advent season, may we choose the path of Christ, even when it seems the more difficult choice. The easier path can lead us to places where we should not go. Sometimes, the more complex and difficult path can lead to a place of spiritual understanding and renewal.

May we choose to focus on joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith. And in so doing, may the light of God’s love shine through us as brightly as it did on that miraculous night in Bethlehem.

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