The advent season is celebrated on the church calendar in the five weeks leading up to Christmas. It is a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of our coming King. Even for people who aren’t church-goers, Christmas is a season of joy, or at least that’s the hope - the reunion of family, the giving of presents, the longed-for holiday break.
One famous Christmas Carol that captures this mood was penned in 1719 by Isaac Watts, the opening line reads:
Joy to the World, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King.
A fitting question to ask during the advent season is “Why did Jesus come to earth?”
One of the most common responses to this question is Jesus came to save us. While this is indeed true, it isn’t the only answer to the question.
Jesus came for more than undertaking a rescue mission, sent to earth to save people from their sins. Jesus came from heaven as good news, sent to preach the good news.
The Gospel of Luke tells about an angelic message given to the shepherds around the time Jesus was born. The angels declare here that God took great joy in sending his Son to a people that brought him joy.
And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Luke 2:12-14
Did you catch that last line? God didn’t come because he’s mad at you, but because he’s pleased with you.
Jesus indeed came to save us, but he saves us from the one who steals, kills, and destroys—not the Father in heaven.
The thief [Satan] comes only in order to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come in order that you might have life—life in all its fullness. John 10:10
Jesus desires that his joy would become our joy. God wants each of us to have the full measure of his perfect joy. He doesn’t simply want us to be happy—an emotion that comes and goes based on circumstances. He wants us to have joy—an enduring state of being that remains regardless of circumstances.
This joy is found even on the cross, which was both horrific and shameful for Jesus to endure. The cross revealed the perfect love of the Father.
Since God is love, we can think of it like this: the more loving one is, the more joy one finds in pouring themselves out for another. The cross was a joy to Jesus, as it resulted in the ultimate pouring out of the perfect love of God. When joy is our answer to why Jesus came, we begin to understand why the angels declared their message as good news. A Father of perfect love desiring to give his children his perfect joy is very good news—it is the best news!
As we begin to know the truth of a beautiful God who is perfect love, we will begin to grow in the joy he wants to give us. Satan has deceived us with ideas about God that are actually evil —lies of a God so angry that the only thing capable of appeasing his wrath was the death of his only son. The truth is God is not angry at you, but God is pleased with you and pleased to give you his joy. While believing Satan’s lies about God leads us to fear him and hide our sin, knowing the truth about God leads us to transparency in our relationship with him and transformation in our lives. The joy God desires for us is found by knowing the God who is perfect love. As we do this the good news becomes the life we live, rather than a belief we hold.
How do you experience God’s love? St. Paul talks about the veil being removed from our imaginations as we contemplate Jesus. (2 Cor 3:14 – 4:6.)
One prayer-method you can try to help you focus on Jesus is called imaginative prayer. Contemplate who Jesus is and what he does because that’s what God is like.
As we experience Jesus’s love, we become more loving. As we see God’s joy toward us, we become more joyful. What we see determines what we become. This is how we’re transformed.
Joy to the world indeed!
(An example of step-by-step instructions on imaginative prayer can be found here.)
This article is part of Faith Journey, a newsletter from the National Centre for Evangelisation.