On a silent night 2000 years ago, while shepherds watched their flocks, they found themselves in the midst of an unexpected supernatural episode. Out of the calm evening sky, suddenly there appeared an angel, accompanied by a shining light from the glory he radiated from being in the presence of the Holy One. Shepherds, usually rugged men, met something that evening more frightening than anything they would ever meet in nature. Theirs’ was the same response that every human being has ever had upon encountering the Holy; these shepherds quaked at the sight of glories stream from heaven afar.
The only appropriate reply from the fearful angelic creature was, “Fear not.” Not only did the angel tell the shepherds that they need not fear, but they gave the grounds for them to instead be joyful. ‘For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’ The long-expected Messiah had come, and rather than fearing, which was their natural reaction, these shepherds had every reason to now rejoice.
When we think of joy, we often relate it to celebration and delight over circumstances of life. We can all think of days of our lives where we experienced great joy. Christian joy, however is something quite different. Christian joy is something that comes when we are hated, rejected, reviled and spurned – we are told in that day to leap for joy, for the great reward to be counted among those who are worthy of such persecution (Lk 6:22-23). Christian joy is one that causes one to sell all he has in order seize the treasure (Mt 13:44). Christian joy is a present reality as we know that our names are written in heaven (Lk 10:19-20).