In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” Luke 1:39–45
Some scholars say that this encounter marks the first celebration of Advent—the first joyous response at the coming of Christ. And in classic Christmas fashion, it just so happens that an unborn baby took the lead.
Little fetus John the Baptist leapt in his mother's womb at the presence of little fetus Jesus. Neither had even made their formal entrance into this world, yet the celebrating didn't require a birthday. And a celebration it truly was.
If unborn John the Baptist celebrated the coming of unborn Jesus by leaping in his mother's womb, how then should we celebrate the coming of Jesus this Advent and always? The same way, in fact: with joy.
It's interesting to consider this in light of the year we've had. Joy likely isn't our natural response to Advent this year (I know it's not for me). Fear, sure. Panic, maybe. Worry, absolutely. But this joy, the joy of Christ coming once and the truth that He will come again, is our light against the darkness crowding in. It's our lifeline, our guide, our rope, our anchor, and the truest gift.
In the book Watch for the Light, it is described this way: "And thus Advent is not merely a commemorative event or an anniversary, but a yearly opportunity for us to consider the future, second Advent—the promised coming of God's kingdom on earth."
The joy of Advent isn't something that has to ascend to the attic on December 26th, be tossed out like ripped wrapping paper, or get returned like that sweater you didn't exactly love. The joy of this season is not merely about Christ's first coming and that miraculous, humble birth in Bethlehem. No, the joy of Advent—of waiting—is that He is coming again.
He is coming again to wipe every tear. He is coming again to heal all pain. He is coming again to fulfill His creation. He is coming again to make all things new.
Before he was hung in a Nazi prison, Alfred Delp wrote, "Advent is blessed with God's promises, which constitute the hidden happiness of this time."
If the joy of Advent could even be experienced in one of the darkest places amidst one of the darkest times in history, so it can be found now. If the joy of Advent could somehow be miraculously experienced by unborn John the Baptist, you too can experience it. For Advent joy is not merely a yuletide thing, but an eternal thing. It's our true light in this dark world. It's a candle that does not burn out but keeps its glow and illuminates our days and lives. Advent joy is everything.
Amidst these next seven days, let us not miss the joy of Christmas and our true joy as Christians: that Christ not only came that first Christmas, but He is coming again. And on that day, the second Advent, our joy will be complete.