Great Joy

Luke 2:10  •  2 min. read  •  grade level: 11
Joy is as characteristic of God's people, as its absence is marked in human systems. Oriental reveries, platonic dialogs, and, in short, all philosophies, ancient or modern, know nothing of this coveted emotion. Yet moderns know less of it than ancients. This would be but natural, seeing that now there is a turning away from the One True Light; whereas of old there was but the warning of conscience, and that often dimmed. It is vain then to turn to ancient literature for holy, overflowing joy; although much of the sweet and pathetic is to be found, clad too with a perfection of form that few moderns have attained, and none have surpassed. So likewise may there not be somewhat of sweetness to be found in literature of our day, such as hovers on the borderland of night and day, beautiful twilight lines, when it is open to the weavers of these fancies to emerge into the clear light of Christian truth? But, however it be as to this, by positive statement as to Scripture, as by negative inference from non-Christian writers, there is abundant ground for saying that joy is a distinctive mark of Christianity, as it will be of restored Israel. Do we not often forget this?
"Great joy"! How fittingly these words are found thus early in this most delightful Gospel wherein the thoughts of so many hearts stand revealed- thoughts gladdened and renewed by holy joy. How different is the experience of Anna and Simeon, of the woman that was a sinner, of the prodigal (though doubtless the joy of the father exceeded), of the converted robber on the cross, of the two favored ones with whom the Lord companied on the wonderful journey to Emmaus -how different the experience of each and all of these from the sad misgivings and perplexities and confessions of heathen sages! I speak with some little knowledge, and am bold to say nothing any of them ever said could comfort the heart, let alone give such joy. How could they? For divine comfort and joy we must go to the Word of God, to the Psalm of David preeminently in the Old Testament, to the New Testament generally. Nor anywhere in the later oracles shall we find more gladness than in this exquisite Gospel of Luke, which a brilliant writer of the last century, but an apostate from the faith, called "the most beautiful book in existence."
Are we not too much afraid of joy? There is much to sadden in life—our failure as believers, the state of the world, the confusion of the Church, the comparative fewness of believers, the myriads who are indifferent—all this should be deeply felt.