Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if God regrets his promise not to flood the world again; if he looks upon his earth and shakes his head at himself for telling Noah all those years ago he’d spare His people. These days can sometimes feel like a perfect time to start over; as if there might be no other solution to the oppression this world is under. We live surrounded by sin, by the darkness summoned by sin, and in the consequences of sin. In an attempt to sound lighthearted, it’s a desperate time. We are all searching for comfort in different ways. We want to be happy.
One thing about happiness: it is a feeling, and it goes away. Every time we find it, it eventually disappears. It is a repetitive need, unforgiving in its demands, insatiable, a cruel master to its desperate slave. Looking around at our societies, one can easily glimpse seekers of the high granted by short-lived happiness. They will get it, and on second glance, they will lose it. Before long all one can see is desperation, panic, anxiety, and fear. Frantic to escape the reality of the world, we have become a people willing to let go of our morals to please ourselves. Upon arrival of the darkest places in their lives, people will say they never thought they would go that far. To the ugly places. You know them. They are in the news, they are what the justice agencies fight against, they are the reasons places like Casafé exist. Child pornography, prostitution, drunks just aiming to blackout and forget their pain, drugs, criminals, bullies. Do not look away from these things and pretend they do not exist. Let yourself feel the discomfort, the victims of these abuses are begging to be noticed, for someone to look their situation in the eyes, feel the discomfort, and DO something about it.
Christmas can easily be a season of happiness. It’s the easy option to use this holiday as a reason to indulge in the happy. Easy to fall into the cozy comforts, settle into our brightly lit homes, and forget the dark places. Forget the pain inflicted by the beasts lurking there. Preying on the powerless and innocent, never thinking twice, never showing mercy.
Our youth are victims of the ugly. They were brought up in the ugly, they have not been guided through the ugly, they are doing their best crawling through it, on their own, uphill, both ways. It is the world they know. It screams bloody murder in the midst of discussions during bible study when, as young teenagers, they almost always bring up drugs, prostitution, alcohol, tattoos, and murder. When their prayer requests include the starving homeless man they saw on the street last week, and they say they hope he is still alive. When, upon being asked, the youth tell you once again, no, their mom isn’t around tonight to make them dinner. When teen pregnancy is blatant.
The darkness permeates everything, until the light intrudes in a company of hope, peace, joy, and love. There is a war between our God and the devil, and we see it every day in our own lives. The Christian community is small and mighty in Jaco, and we have so much work ahead of us.
The original sin threw the world into this chaotic whirlwind war. One we will be caught in as long as this world exists. We have no choice but to fight in it, for to give in would be a donation to the darkness. This much we know to be true, we fight this war with God.
But (and here is the part where this post actually gets joyful) we have reason to rejoice.
The great I Am has already sent his son to die for us. It is done. It is finished. And it will never change.
There is something we have a choice in.
The difference between happiness and joy, while happiness is a feeling, joy is a choice. And what an incredible choice there is to make. What an amazing message to bring to our youth, to all those who have been touched by the murky black shadows of this earth, to everyone. At the end of all this, we have a perfect life, with our perfect creator, our Father. This is our joy, the coin burning a hole in our pocket, the secret we let light up our whole lives, the best news ever, and greatest story ever written, and the best present from our Dad. Brothers and sisters we have news to share with those hurting from the ugly.
We are here to share that news, to help the hurt heal, and to light up the room for those trying to feel their way in the darkness. We want to illuminate their path with the light of God, and give them the choice of joy.
Such a simple word for such a huge decision. God gave us this decision. Immanuel: God with us, means there is nothing that could happen to us that could ruin our joy.
No darkness, in the light of the cross, can triumph.
Trust in the Lord forever,
for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal. (Isaiah 26:4)
He has made himself the rock in our lives, he has shouldered the battles we fight against the ugly of today, he has taken on the risk and traded it for our freedom, he has promised us a perfect life with Him, and he has already given us the best gift we could ever imagine receiving.
It is already done.
God has allowed us to make the decision of joy. Pure joy. In the presence of the darkness of the world we have the cross banishing the ugly, creating the option of joy, true joy. We have received the best gift.
This brings light into our lives. With reckless abandon we can let go of the ugly tying us to the world and live within the light of the gift we have been given.
What a light for our youth. In the darkness of the world, the darkness of Jaco, the light of the cross continues to banish the temptations, light a path, and lend strength those battling the long nights. There is joy for those who cannot maintain the happy. There is joy for those who have gone down every path looking for their next high. There is joy for those who have been to their lowest lows and survived. There is joy for those touched by the light.
This season when you think of joy, think of the light banishing darkness, causing sin to cower, and freeing the slaves bound to the pursuit of happiness.
Think of it as it reaches towards the youth of Casafé, telling them of the gift promising more than happiness ever could.