This season’s looked different for us. From my going down again off and on (mostly on) for a couple weeks, affecting our plans to get together with my side of the family for Thanksgiving; to both of our kids having jobs, now, and seeing them less; to a weird situation, where I have a migraine hit during most church services, limiting or squelching opportunities to connect with others after those services…time with others has been restricted. Sometimes, this can leave a void, as we’re created for relationship.
A bright spot to my season was a recent invitation from a dear friend to attend an auction/bizarre at the school my kids used to attend. The LORD blessed me with pretty good health that day, and I was able to go! I found a small sign, made by one of the school’s teachers, that caught not only my eye; it caught my heart. Tears welled up in my eyes as I read its words: “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel!” Its message captured my affection and flooded my emotions…my inadequacies…my lonely feelings. “Rejoice!” God’s Spirit within told me; “God’s with you!”
We sing songs; we know the name–Immanuel–and Whom it belonged to; we know what it means (God with us); but do we pause to really reflect on what this means?!? Do we rejoice that GOD is with us? I mean, REALLY rejoice? Do we even grasp what rejoice even means?
“‘Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son and shall call His name Immanuel.'”Isaiah 7:14 NKJV
“Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste…and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy! Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.’ And Mary said: ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.”Luke 1:39-47 NKJV
“Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search diligently for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.’ When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them until it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.”Matthew 2:7-10 NKJV
The prophet Isaiah told of Immanuel’s arrival 600-700 years before the Son of God actually arrived on earth. The excitement experienced by those who believed Who Jesus was, that Immanuel was finally here, and the reality of His presence was recognizable! John (the Baptist), while in Elizabeth’s belly, leapt for joy, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, her relative, carrying Jesus, God’s Son, in her womb. The Spirit of God filled both John and Elizabeth (Luke 1:15, 41) and allowed them to recognize the presence of Immanuel…that GOD was with them, though inside Mary’s belly!
The wise men, when they, again, saw God’s sign of the star, leading them to where Jesus, the Son of God, was, “rejoiced with exceedingly great joy!” What does that look like?
REJOICE (“chairó in Greek)
Rejoice means to experience and be glad for God’s favor…for His favorable leaning in toward you.
JOY (“chara” in Greek)
If you’re experiencing God’s favorable leaning in toward you, it’s enough to ignite great joy! You know how you experience something, but don’t always understand it? Joy isn’t ambiguous. It’s recognizable! You see God leaning in! You see His favor…and you get it! You’re aware of it! You know what it is! You know Whom it’s from! THIS is JOY!
EXCEEDINGLY (“sphodra” in Greek)
“Exceedingly” means “done all out…with total effort!”
GREAT (“megas” in Greek)
“Great,” obviously, means “large,” but in Matthew 2:7, it’s referring to the intensity and measure of the wise men’s joy–their awareness of God’s favor, His leaning in toward them! The effort is totally intense; the measure is all out! It affected what they were fond of as well as what they felt and thought about!
This is really resonating with me right now! No matter what situations arise that affect my plans, what lies or distractions Satan hurls my way, what family is or isn’t around, what choices I see others making that I feel I should have had more of an impact on, MY GOD IS HERE WITH ME!! He sees me! He’s leaning in toward me! The reality of this needs to affect what I like, what I put value in, how I feel, and what I think about! When I stop long enough to really soak this in, to be aware of Him, to recognize Him, His Spirit inside me wells up like a fountain, and I can’t help but want to shout, leap, do everything He’s laid out for me to do today with total effort! He’s with me! I believe this, and His presence, interest, and attention gives me renewed strength, value, purpose, and confidence!
I pray this for you, too, friends…that you will more deeply cultivate your relationship with Him; find peace and rest in Him; and go all out in serving Him, as you experience, recognize, and are glad that He’s near!