JOY FOR ALL!

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During these Advent days, Christ-followers celebrate the good news that will bring great joy to all the people (Luke 2: 10-11).  “All the people means just what it asserts—all the people.  I’m thinking about that word, “all.”

In a few days our family will gather to celebrate.  We have worked out the schedule, coordinated with the desires and claims of every branch of the intertwined families in order to find a time when, for our family, all can and will be there.  Not just there, but entering fully into the joy.  It’s important that all are there, that all can share in the moments we have to celebrate.

I can well imagine what it would be like if “all” were impossible—as it is for many families this year, and every year for that matter.  Illness, war, accident, deliberate choice or unwitting carelessness robs many families of welcoming all the children.  When they gather it will not be possible for all to enter the joy.  As wonderful as the gathering will be, the absence of one mutes the wonder.  In some cases perhaps the absence will preempt the wonder altogether.

Does God our Father share in the mystery and mess of his flesh and blood children to this degree?  Does our Father feel this muting of wonder, this tempering of joy because not all can or will come to the party?  Do the others who can and will come notice the missing?  Do they yearn for their arrival?  Do they long for some way, any way, for the joy to find a way to and beyond the farthest reaches of their fleeing?

Or, do those who’ve come to the party imagine they are all?  Surely not by design, but … ?

As we sing our Christmas carols about the news that is so good that mega-joy will flow to all people:

  • Little girls are robbed of their childhood, to be enslaved for unspeakable purposes;
  • Little boys are forced to take up real arms and taught to maim and kill others;
  •  Millions are displaced and driven to refugee camps by tribal conflict, genocidal assault,  famine, and political corruption;
  • Millions more are living without hope of a future better than their present meager subsistence, in fact, billions actually live on less than 2.00 per day;
  • Millions of others endure in despair even though they will never worry about creature comfort, daily provisions, or lack of opportunity;
  • Millions have never not been in danger, who live in war zones, among predators, or in places of social and cultural hostility; and
  • Millions more, with circumstances and surroundings safe and secure, still live in fear and angst.

 Clearly, we sing carols of joy, perhaps imagining that we are pretty much all,  in a world where some of God’s very best gifts have been stolen, and then re-gifted to humanity in ways that turn universal blessing to prevailing curse.  Yet, still, we sing.  And, here is why.

We sing because in a most incredible irony, the very possibility of all participating in the deepest joys enters our world only because the Joy-Bringer left home.  Now there is room for all, enough holy space for every last one, precisely through the (temporary that must have felt like an eternal) absence of One.

He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace-
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!

Now there is hope for the little girls and boys.  Now there is hope for the refugees and their oppressors.  And now hope reaches for those crushed by evil of whatever sort and those used by evil to do the crushing. 

Now, there is hope for any and for all.   Hope is good news and hope is real—at least, that’s what the angels declared and an impressive host of witnesses have been claiming for thousands of years.  If this is true, it does mean joy for all

But, more precisely, how and why?

Stay tuned …

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