If there is one topic of which I feel entirely unqualified to write, it’s joy. I’ve been fighting insomnia and depression for the last few years. And the holidays don’t make it any easier.
Every year, we put up a tree and string it with lights and sing our blessed carols. But in the last five years, I’ve buried my mother, my brother, my cousin, and – a few months ago – my grandfather. No amount of stolen candy canes or scarfed pumpkin pie is going to change the fact that I miss them. Dearly.
Of joy, I have known little, especially lately. Of sorrow, I have known plenty.
At Christmas, we celebrate a story truly bizarre. God – transcendent, omnipotent, immortal – became a man. Became one of us. But do we ever ask why? Why was this baby so important? Why do we celebrate this birth for millennia and use the words peace, hope, joy, and love?
Isaiah, hundreds of years beforehand, called this same Child the Servant. While the angels shouted, “Glory to God in the Highest!;” Isaiah looked ahead and saw not joy, but suffering. In fact, Isaiah called Him the Man of Sorrows. (Isa 53: 3)
God took our flesh and walked this earth to identify with our sorrows. And He identified so thoroughly, He found a new title: The Man of Sorrows.
“Surely, He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows…
He was wounded for our transgressions;
He was crushed for our iniquities;
Upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace.” (Isa 53: 4-5)
That is why this Child’s birth is synonymous with peace and hope and joy and love. Because that Child, wrapped in cloth and surrounded by barn animals in a stable, came for us. Came to bear our burdens. Came to carry our sorrows.
It is that Man who sits enthroned over every one of our sins, shame, and sorrow, and beacons us to come. Who carried our sorrows. Though He never promised we’d never suffer, He knew our pain. He was so unwilling to let us carry our burdens by ourselves He took our flesh to bear them for us.
No matter how far joy seems from me, I know this: He will not leave me alone in my sorrow. He will not leave me alone at all.
God lay helpless in a manger that day and hung lifeless on another. And He did it for love of you. And that is why we have joy.