(The first week of this Advent series I shared that the primary color of the Advent candles was purple, signifying the importance of repentance for us to prepare for celebrating the birth of Jesus. The third candle is often pink representing joy or rejoicing. It reveals a shift in the season away from repentance towards celebration. This week we light the candle of joy.)
The Wise Men were still traveling, Mary and Joseph had reached their destination, and now I encounter the shepherds on their way to Bethlehem. The shepherds had the shortest distance to travel to Bethlehem of any of these sojourners. They only needed to go approximately 3.2 miles from the fields where they were caring for their sheep to Bethlehem. While on my own spiritual journey to Bethlehem, I believe I would have traveled the Route of Joy with the shepherds.
Luke 2:8-14 records how the shepherds first heard about the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. The night He was born, they were in nearby fields taking care of their sheep. An angel personally delivered the message of Jesus’ birth to these men. The angel specifically told them that they would find this newborn baby in a manger. The shepherds were comfortable thinking about going to see Jesus in a manger because they knew they most likely they would be surrounded by more sheep and other animals. Luke 2:15-16 says, “When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, ‘Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.‘ So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.” I believe it was a joyous journey for them as they hurried along the route to Bethlehem. I believe they may have said words similar to those of Paul in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” These words and this road definitely need to be part of my spiritual journey to Bethlehem. I like traveling the Route of Joy!
To make sure that I stay upon the Route of Joy, I rely upon the Lord’s guidance promised in Psalm 16:11, “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” I also realize that the journey will not always be easy, so I claim Nehemiah 8:10 that says, “the joy of the LORD is your strength.” While stumbling along the Route of Joy at night, I might cry and weep because I may fear that I have lost my way. However, I can be assured that “weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” according to Psalm 30:5.
Preparing for Christmas can sometimes lead me down a stressful path rather that my following the Route of Joy. There is an acronym for JOY that helps me keep the right perspective. It is J=Jesus, O=Others, and Y=Yourself. If I remember to focus upon this goal, I will be filled with joy. My Advent, my spiritual journey to my spiritual Bethlehem, will bring me more joy and allow me to share this joy with others if I give Jesus priority. He not only needs to be born in my life but I also need to allow Him to live in my life every day.
My Reader, I join the author of the gospel of John in sharing with you the following words of Jesus, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete,” found in John 15:11. I share my journey on the Route of Joy with you so that you too may encounter joy not only during this Christmas season but throughout the entire year. Let’s keep traveling together!
* Bold type words are my choice of emphasis.