Mary carried the baby Jesus in her womb and with that life inside her joy followed. Everywhere that Mary went carrying Jesus around she also was carrying joy to the entire world. This is witnessed in the reactions of Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-45), Mary's song (Luke 1:46-56), Zechariah's prophecy (Luke 1:63-65), and The Shepherds hearing of Jesus' birth (Luke 2:8-11). Our responsibility as people who follow Jesus is to also bring joy to the world. Here are 7 ways we can carry joy to the world
1. Gather When Others Scatter -be people who gather people to Christ with grace rather than scattering people away through talk of death and gloom. We must be people who are offering life to others. It is not our place to bring judgment and death to the world. God will be the one who sifts and sorts. We have a message of hope and love that brings joy. We should be the people who are willing to lay down how we think people should come to Jesus and simply be people who are willing to gather people to hear his message and experience his light and life.
2. Seek When Others Ignore -be people who seek after the lost, hurting, marginalized, politicized, or forgotten instead of ignoring the harsh parts of our world. And this isn't just about ignoring those that the world ignores. It is also not allowing our own interest and love-fest with Jesus distract us from seeking those who don't know Him yet or have fallen on tough times with God. Also there is not point of total arrival with God. It is a journey that we continually walk with others. Therefore, we continually seek God. And we cannot ignore the parts of scripture or the sections of God's heart that don't match our own personality or desires of life. We seek God and allow Him to seek us completely.
3. Dance When Others Fight -be people who move with grace and love through life and offer movement with those we agree with and disagree with rather than being people of violence, conflict, and fighting. No one wants to come to a Jesus who only wants more pain, they want a savior who is honest and will find the joy in life along with us. Dancing has movement and rhythm (or at least I've been told, you do not want to see me dance). It has give and take. Dancing requires partnership, grace, practice, and joy. Fighting requires conflict, anger, opponents, and violence. Even though I grew up in a tradition that would shudder as I say this, but Jesus would rather us dance, yes dance!
4. Advocate When Others Protest -be people who not only stand up for others, but stand with others offering our own reputation, time, life, money, empathy, and life so that they can be heard, understood, redeemed. Too many times people only protest just to be a part of something rather than to be part of someone. It is possible to protest against something or someone and not have a total conviction about it or have a face that goes along with your protest. However, when you are an advocate you must encounter the person or people that most need your voice and involvement. And while we are at it, let's make sure that what we are advocating is something that Christ would advocate. Christ won't advocate hate! He is always an advocate for love! Be an advocate and truly help someone.
5. Laugh When Others Sulk -be people who are able to find joy and express it with one another. There are times to grieve and mourn and that is not the same as sulking. Sulking is when we there is obvious joy, but we find it more "spiritual" to diminish the happiness caused by joy so we don't find ourselves too wrapped up in emotions. We shouldn't sulk when we don't get our way, but we should laugh when we see God in the world.
6. Listen When Others Lecture -be people who listen to understand rather than talk to be understood. There is life in listening. There is joy in hearing a different opinion. Sometimes we are wrong. Read that again. When we listen, we not only hear the other person, we hear God. Leave your bullhorn and indignation at home and take your ears and open mind to the streets and find God all over again in His people.
7. Shine When Others Shadow –be people who take the Light of Christ and shine it brightly to others rather than being a person who spreads Grinch-style gloom in order to extinguish joy. I wanted to originally say Shine When Others Suck to make a contrast between a star and a black hole, but the word “suck” isn’t all that nice. So glad I didn’t use that word. But it’s true. A star, when it is alive, shines. And when it is dead it holds great gravity and can suck things closest to it including light. Be a beacon of joy not a dull representation of the gospel.
All of these things are ways to nuance the way we live. Try one on for a while and see if it doesn’t bring more joy to your life and the lives around you. Mary carried a divine fetus that after nine months became Immanuel (God With Us). That womb carried joy to the world. That son was the joy of the world. We too carry joy to the world until the joy of the world returns. Mary wasn’t the only one who carried Jesus inside her; we do too. Mary wasn’t the only one who carried joy to the world; we do too. Be people of hope, love, and joy. Carry joy to the world!