As we approach Christmas with a heightened sense of anticipation and excitement (just one week to go!), our thoughts turn to our final Advent theme: ‘joy’.

Joy bubbles up throughout the whole Christmas story. From Mary’s song of praise in Luke 1: 46- 55 (‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour’) to Zechariah’s song (Luke 1:67-79) (‘Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them’) to the angels’ message of ‘good news that will cause great joy for all the people’ (Luke 2:10), joy is the recurrent tone of the Christmas message. To be sure, there is sorrow and heartache too in this story (the childlessness of Zechariah and Elizabeth, the prophetic message of Simeon that ‘a sword will pierce your own soul too’ (Luke 2:35) as he looked ahead to the cross, the pain of those touched by Herod’s slaughter of the innocents, the anxiety of the young family’s flight to Egypt), but still we see joy bubbling up nonetheless.

Joy is like that. It can bubble up in the most unexpected places. Paul told the Thessalonians to ‘rejoice always’ (1 Thess 5:16) and reminded the Philippians, whilst he was imprisoned because of his faith, ‘Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!’ (Phil 4:4) One of the most amazing things about Christianity is this effervescent joy, no matter what.