A Prayer for Joy Unspeakable By Jessica Van Roekel
“And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” - Luke 2:9-10 ESV
In my midwestern, small-town newspaper, it’s common to print birth announcements. After the birth of my four babies, I kept the announcement as a keepsake for their baby book to mark part of their story. At Jesus’ birth, God lit the night sky to make his announcement. Can you imagine sitting in the dark, warming yourself by a fire, tuning your ear to the night sounds when an angel appears before you and the glory of God fills the night?
The fear the shepherds felt gave way to unspeakable joy. God made his announcement to shepherds, the ones responsible for caring for the sheep. These were the ones who lived separate from society and the ones who best represent God’s shepherding of his people. God’s splashy announcement of the birth of Jesus did two things. It showed that God came not only for kings but for the lowliest of them all—the shepherd, who was typically the youngest in the family.
During biblical times, birth order indicated importance. Each son grew out of shepherding and onto more important labor until the youngest son eventually became the family shepherd. We see this in King David’s life when Samuel went to Jesse’s house to anoint Israel’s new king, and Jesse only presented the seven older brothers to Samuel. The youngest was forgotten.
Second, it reinforced the shepherding concept traced through both Testaments. In the Old Testament, we read of Abel, Moses, David, Jacob, and God. God was a shepherd to his wayward sheep, the Israelites. In the New Testament, Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd, who lays down his life for his sheep. God esteemed shepherds, hence his night sky announcement to them. The ones who went about their business tending sheep over the same meadows, repeating the same daily cycle, were the first to hear the news of the Messiah’s birth.
In our day-to-day lives, we can get tunnel vision with what’s before us. We drive the same route day after day, cook the same set of meals, and deal with the same difficulties that don’t seem to end. Disappointments with our lives overtake feelings of joy, and joy seems lost. We wonder where our Light of the World is, and we wait for dawn like the shepherds did that night when their world changed.
“Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you,” (Matthew 6:33, ESV). The Greek word for seek means to be absorbed in the search for something. This absorption fills our whole attention. Several years ago, I lost an important paper. I searched in every nook and cranny, every filing cabinet and box in the attic for hours. Finding the lost paper absorbed my mind and actions. It's seeking God with that kind of attention that leads to unspeakable joy and carries us through long dark nights.
Yet, we don’t have to wait for God to make a big, splashy announcement in our lives for us to know unspeakable joy. When he called us to himself, and we responded, we knew joy unspeakable. He made a way when there seemed to be no way, and we remember how he did it and what we felt. We can call these remembrances to our mind when we feel like we need to hunker down and wait the night out. Joy comes when we seek him.
Holy God, I’m feeling a little joyless today. I’m hunkered down, waiting for this long middle to end. Day after day, I get up, go to work, come home to never-ending tasks, and go to bed. I wake up, and the new day is just like yesterday. Joy feels foreign. I can’t remember the last time joy flooded my heart. I want to be so thrilled with your joy like the shepherds were that night so long ago that I tell people about what you’ve done in my life. Help me to seek you with my whole being. Give me eyes to see you at work in my life. Let me know joy unspeakable today. In Jesus’ name, Amen
Jessica Van Roekel loves the upside-down life of following Jesus as she journeys to wholeness through brokenness. As an author, speaker, and worship leader, she uses her gifts and experiences to share God’s transformative power to rescue, restore, and renew. She longs for you to know that rejection doesn’t have to define or determine your future when placed in God’s healing hands. Find out more reframingrejectionbook.com You can connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.
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