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."
As celebrate this season between Christmas and Epiphany we have an opportunity to reflect on the reality that Jesus HAS come. And, through His coming, He has brought joy to this broken world.
His joy is my passion and played a crucial role in His calling me to Africa.
While I was in college, I went on a mission trip to Guinea, West Africa. While I was working there some women asked me, "Why are you smiling?" I remember looking at them and thinking through their question; I had no reason at that moment to be smiling. I was across the ocean from my family. Eating food very different than home. Taking malaria medication and sleeping under a mosquito net. Bathing with a bucket of cold water. And yet I was smiling. I answered them by saying, "I smile because I know Jesus loves me."
As the trip continued, I became frustrated with the way women are treated in that part of the world. Normal was being one of many wives. Most had no say in their marriage. Many were physically abused at home. All were expected to do and serve without question. And their value came if they could have children. Women were second class at best. I told God, "I want to change this." I wanted to go to Africa and fight for women's rights. He sweetly told me that I was not going to change a culture by myself. And that was not what He was asking me to do. Instead, He said, "I want you to take the JOY I put in you and bring it to these women. You are full of MY JOY and that is why you smile. MY JOY can overcome any circumstance." I knew the Lord had given me my calling. To bring His Joy to women, particularly women in Africa, who need it so much.
Our first term in Uganda I got to bring HIS Joy to some women through bible study, conversations over tea, the sharing of their hardships and just doing life together. One of them said as we were leaving, "thank you for your smiles." I know His Love and His Joy flowed through me to her.
So as Christmas is "over" for so many people, we rejoice because Christmas means that Jesus came and brought joy for all people.