16 December 2023

Comfort and joy: News of great joy

Lieutenant Nazia Yousaf

A photo shows a wooden manger scene with a baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, shepherd and animal figures. Text reads: Comfort and joy.

In a series of Advent reflections, Lieutenant Nazia Yousaf celebrates the tidings of joy that Christmas brings.

Some of us have a habit of humming our favourite songs. Most of the time, we are unaware of what we are humming. All year round, my humming song is the same: ‘Joy to the world! the Lord is come.’ Sometimes, my family and friends remind me: Nazia, it’s only July! I always respond that it is the good news of great joy for all year round, not just for Christmas.

Look around you. The world is desperate to have great news of joy. Can you dream of one day turning on the TV and the news anchor is shouting with joy? That all countries have signed a peace declaration and there is no war in the world? That gas and petrol prices have decreased? That food is affordable, and the world has devised a solution for food wastage and equal distribution of resources? That the number of hate crimes is zero, with no evidence of discrimination, and that everyone is treated equally? That our world is healing and the pollution index is coming down?

Then your eyes open to today’s reality. It is so easy to lose the joy of our lives.

In the Christmas story, the good news of great joy was shared with the shepherds, people who had no position of authority, who couldn’t even advocate for themselves, let alone others. Circumstances at that time were not favourable. People were heavily taxed to support the rich, but no support was available for the poor.

The Roman Empire ruled the nation and Jews were considered second-class citizens. They were waiting for a saviour who would free them from oppression. Angels indeed shared great news of joy for them: their Saviour was born.

It was news of joy and hope and comfort. News of a peaceful future – a better world. It was a joyful night, full of hope.

The same Saviour born that night 2,000 years ago said in John 15:11: ‘These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full’ (English Standard Version). A joy so great that it gave Jesus the stamina to bear the Crucifixion (see Hebrews 12:2).

Jesus has given us the news of great joy that our sins are forgiven, that he has paid the price for us. His joy fills our hearts when we accept him as our Saviour and have faith in him.

It is a joy so deep and durable that it is not knocked down by the world. It is not pushed aside when sickness hits. It does not disappear when a loved one dies. It does not stand or fall based upon a person’s health or when harm is done towards them. This great joy is so powerful that it overlaps and overwhelms sorrow, suffering and loss. It doesn’t mean we don’t feel sad or don’t grieve; it helps us to recover. This great joy has its source in Christ the Lord, who has saved us from sin and death and given us eternal life. Nothing in this world can even begin to compare or compete with it.

Jesus said in John 16:22: ‘You have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you’ (ESV).

Now, while we are waiting for Jesus’ second coming, we keep doing what waiters do: we serve. We serve the world in his name, working hard for the Kingdom. We work hard to be peacemakers, to bring justice, to make this world a better place for everyone – for all creation.

When we listen to the sad and bad news of what is happening in this world, it’s easy to lose our joy. I encourage you to keep focus on the great news: we have our Saviour Jesus Christ with us, a source of pure joy. Be ready and willing to share that good news with this suffering world. Joy to the world! The Lord is come!

Written by

A photo of Nazia Yousaf in Salvation Army uniform

Lieutenant Nazia Yousaf

Corps Officer, Stockport Heaton Norris

Listen to this reflection

Nazia has shared an extended version of this reflection on the Sunday Worship Podcast.

Sunday Worship Podcast

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