Advent with Abstract: Joy and Peace

Mary’s first reaction was fear.

Who could blame her? Motherhood isn’t something I long to pursue. If I were to ever marry a guy, and he truly wanted children, I’d be willing to concede, but it’d be the ultimate testament of my love for him. Kids are a certain lack of freedom and a responsibility to look after someone and raise a functioning member of society. They are screaming and crying turning into tantrums and slammed doors. They’re waking up early and filling out all sorts of forms and spending unreal amounts of money. And always wondering if you’re doing a good job.

I don’t think I’ve ever talked to a mom who wasn’t at least a little scared or nervous about having kids. There’s so much one has to do or be careful of; there are so many ways to mess up. There’s this tiny human who you love, and you don’t want to let him or her down or ruin the child.

But Mary’s case called for even more concern than that. She was a young, engaged virgin who stood to lose a lot if the whole situation was handled badly. Joseph, her betrothed, could’ve ditched her with varying degrees of hurt and suffering. He could pursue a public, messy divorce, which would’ve ended with Mary being stoned. Or he could’ve pursued a quiet divorce with a few witnesses and an exchange of money. Mary’s family could’ve disowned her. Out of context or in disbelief, Mary’s situation would’ve been scandalous and disgraceful to the family. Sure, they would lose a worker and a means of provision, but they would have two less people to provide for. Yes, Mary had every right to be afraid.

God chose wisely (as always) when He chose Mary, because once Mary listened to the angel, she chose faith. When Joseph perused his heart and his options, when Mary journeyed to see her also-pregnant cousin, Elizabeth, when she traveled with Joseph to Bethlehem, Mary constantly and consistently chose faith.

What’s more, Mary was beyond being content. She was even beyond being happy. She was joyful and peaceful.

That’s certainly a credit to Mary’s personal strength and mindset, and I wouldn’t dream of denying that or failing to point that out. But as with everything, and I think Mary would agree with me wholeheartedly, it’s really more Jesus’ doing than her own.

Psalm 21:6 (NRSV) says, “You bestow on [the king] blessings forever; you make him glad with the joy of your presence.”

1 Peter 1:8 (NLT) reads, “You love [Jesus] even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy.”

Jesus says in John 14:27 (NLT), “I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

And He goes on to say in John 16:33 (NRSV), “I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”

God identifies as love, but joy and hope are also intrinsic parts of His character. So much so that to know God is to know joy and hope. To be in His presence, in any capacity, fills one with joy. To have a relationship with Him is to be filled with peace.

Mary went from fear to gladness so quick because she knew who was with her. She knew who put her where she was and she knew who was growing inside of her. It gave her joy that she couldn’t describe or explain. It gave her an unshakable peace. She got to walk every day with the source of it all. She knew Him better than any other human could.

How much joy and peace do you have right now? Are world events, awful as they are, getting the better of you? Are your eyes opening and focusing on a cruel world that worsens daily? Do you feel yourself slipping further into worry, becoming more and more disheartened?

If that’s you, you’re not alone. And if that’s you, I’ve got some good news.

Like Mary, your joy and peace start with faith. God loves you and longs to take care of you. He wants to be your refuge and your rock. He can do and be all of that for you in a world that will only hurt you. You just have to put your faith in Him. Isn’t that a small price, a small risk, for inexpressible joy and otherworldly peace?

I pray that as Christmas approaches, you will all find the joy and peace you need. I pray that you’re filled with such gifts and blessings that only God can provide. Because that is why Jesus came, the precious baby that He was. That’s why He lived, accepting His calling and the persecution that came along with it. That’s also why He died a brutal, criminal’s death that was most undeserved. He came for love, joy, and peace, and He came to give it all to you.

By Carrie Prevette

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