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Increase the Joy

"The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them. You will multiply the nation, You will increase their joy; They will rejoice in Your presence As with the joy of harvest, As people rejoice when they divide the spoils." Isaiah 9:2-3 (NASB20)

Darkness to light. In 2015, I was in Israel with a group of friends. We were there on a mission but of course did touring as well. It was amazing. I was in tears as we drove into Jerusalem. I was overtired from the travel and the tears came unexpectedly. I choked them back thinking, “Lord, what is it about this land that evokes such emotion?” It felt like a whirlwind as we traveled through the homeland of Jesus. It was beautiful…until the group took a turn down a set of stairs. I followed along, trying to keep up. Before I knew it, I was in a dark, narrow tunnel underground. When I say narrow, I mean very narrow. At one point, there was a tarp along the wall so that visitors would not scrape themselves as they passed through. Claustrophobia had already kicked in when I saw that narrow passage. I looked behind me for a way of escape, but a line of people filled the darkness behind me, and I would not be able to get past them. I looked forward and saw a light on the other side of the passage. I took deep breaths and decided to focus on getting to the light. It was not even a great light as the one in the verse above, but when we got through the narrow passage and entered a large underground chamber with a high ceiling and a little more light, I was relieved and joyful. Why? I had made it through the darkness, the crushing feeling of claustrophobia, without melting down and embarrassing myself and everyone with me. That kind of darkness was just a moment though.

The darkness the prophet Isaiah speaks of is related to the coming invasion of enemies (Isaiah 8). The end of Isaiah 8 reminds me of so many people in our world who do not know Jesus and do not understand the darkness, and so end up blaming God and everyone around them. “They will pass through the land dejected and hungry, and it will turn out that when they are hungry, they will become enraged and curse their king and their God as they face upward.” Isaiah 8:21 (NASB20)

Does that sound a bit depressing? Hang on for the good news! Isaiah 9 begins with, “But…” Oh how I love that word when it tells me a turnaround is coming! I love that in the darkest of times, whether caused by enemies or our own choices, that God does not give us that old line, “You’ve made your bed, now lie in it.” No, He always points to The Way out of darkness.

“For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 (NKJV)

Although Israel is the nation mentioned in Isaiah 9:3, these Messianic verses can speak to us as well. Those who have walked in darkness, those who have lived in a dark place, those who are distressed, there is a Light that will shine on you. Jesus said, “…I am the Light of the world; the one who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” John 8:12 (NASB20)

Jesus is the Light of life who we can invite into every dark place, every addiction, every distressing situation, and every celebration. He wants to be in a relationship with us in it all. He brings an increase of joy to our midst. We can experience His presence in a crowd or alone, in quiet meditation or joyous worship. When we truly experience His presence and His love, we will rejoice as with the joy of harvest. The things planted in relationship with the Lord produce a joyful harvest. It is not from our doing as much as from our being in His presence.

Let's take time out today to acknowledge His presence. Close our eyes and calm any busy or worrisome thoughts as we ponder His light shining on us and His joy rising within in us. Take a deep breath in and then release it along with any stress. Breathe in again and receive light and joy in His presence.

A song that helps me with this every Christmas season is the song “Noel” sung by Lauren Daigle. Read the lyrics of the chorus or go listen to the song, let the words wash over you, and receive an increase of joy.

Noel, Noel

Come and see what God has done

Noel, Noel

The story of amazing love!

The light of the world, given for us

Noel, Noel

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