Some may remember the Sunday School chorus starting with the above line and going on “Down in my heart, (where?), Down in my heart, (where?), Down in my heart.” Such words are then essentially repeated, concluding “Down in my heart to stay.” Perhaps the songwriter had limited time / paper when composing these words!
Our third Advent candle reminds us of the true joy we have because Jesus came to this earth. There was, in fact, much joy at that time – for instance John the Baptist, even in his mother Elizabeth’s womb, “leaped for joy” when Mary visited (Luke 1v44), Mary rejoiced in God her Saviour (Luke 1v47), the angel of the Lord brought “good news of great joy that will be for all the people” to the shepherds (Luke 2v10) and the Magi “were overjoyed” when they saw the star leading them to “the place where the child was” (Matthew 2v9,10).
We perhaps all know the ‘theory’ of true, Christian joy – that it is not dependent on our outward circumstances but experienced “Down in my heart” as we receive God’s pardon and peace and know His unending presence with us. But the reality can seem very different and we may even feel ‘guilty’ when we are not joyful. Two quick thoughts: (i) Paul prays for the Roman Christians “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him” (Romans 15v13), suggesting we may indeed need joyful ‘top ups’ – and we should seek God for these, whilst all the time depending totally on Him; (ii) the writer of Hebrews talks about Jesus enduring the cross because of “the joy set before Him” (Hebrews 12v2). Clearly Jesus suffered awful agony and desolation as He bore the penalty for our sin on the cross. However, He was enabled to persevere through such awful suffering because of all that lay beyond. May we similarly see the joy set before us – what the Bible terms everlasting joy – when we face suffering in our own lives.
Peace and Grace