The angel said, “I bring you good tidings of great joy!” We really need some of that these days. With Paris and San Bernardino still in the news cycle we are reminded of the evil among us.
And then this past week I received a series of bad news from industry friends.
A publishing friend lost his home to a fire.
A client called to say they’ve been diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma which is a cancer of the white blood cells in the bone marrow. Chemo treatments have begun.
Another client lost their mom.
Another received continued difficult news regarding a daughter who has walked away from her marriage after less than a year.
Another was told her father has stomach cancer and major surgery is scheduled next week. Recovery will have to be during Christmas.
Two others called with significant distress over the direction of their careers.
By the end of the week I almost flinched when the phone rang or the email dinged.
Then it just so happened that, yesterday, the Bible class I teach each Sunday looked at the passage in Luke 13:1-5 where there is a story of Jewish Galileans being murdered by Romans and a story of eighteen who died when a tower collapsed in Jerusalem.
In my study research for the class I came across many sermons on this text that were preached right after a horrible tragedy (Columbine, 9/11, and the Amish schoolhouse murders). I then found that Charles Spurgeon had preached on this text in September 1861, right after two terrible train accidents had occurred in London. One killing 23, the other killing 15. Spurgeon wrote:
In reading the newspapers during the last two weeks, even the most stolid must have been the subject of very painful feelings. Not only have there been catastrophes so alarming that the blood chills at their remembrance, but column after column of the paper has been devoted to calamities of a minor degree of horror, but which, when added together, are enough to astound the mind with the fearful amount of sudden death which has of late fallen on the sons of men…The particular subject of this morning, however, is this—the use which we ought to make of these fearful texts which God is writing in capital letters upon the history of the world.
Sounds like he was reading yesterday’s newspaper, not one written 150 years ago.
It puts the challenges we face as writers, editors, and agents in perspective, doesn’t it? We tussle and fight with the economic forces of the industry. We wrestle with discoverability, platform, craft, and the plethora of intense competition. But to what purpose? To get a byline? To get paid?
The world is a dark place. A joy-less place. And it is into this world that the angel’s message came…
“I bring YOU good tidings of great joy.” You. A personal message. Not a generic press release. It is for this reason that we work. Because Jesus is the joy that the world is missing. And we write and edit and publish so that joy can be given to those who need it the most.
Joy to the World? Absolutely.
For the Lord has come.
Beautiful! I needed that today, so thanks! My verse for today is
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Hopefully, we all will move forward in the new year with a renewed sense of purpose, to shine light into a dark world.
Reading of all those tragedies, someone else might just want to walk away. But doesn’t God always intervene.? And intervenes at precisely the right time. Even He did not look away from the Roman occupation of Israel and the cries of His people. For at just the right time He came to us, not as a ruler, but the ruler stooped and became a child, the most helpless of us, so that we might know how to live through tragedy and rejoice in the joy set before us. Merry Christmas? Merry Christmas, indeed!
I needed this message today. Thanks for sharing it. I’ve had three tragic funerals in the last two weeks. It has me opening my eyes in the morning wondering if it was all just a dream, but then reality hits and I don’t want it to be true.
It’s time for a cure. After reading your message, I’ve decided to play Christmas music while I write today. I need to wake up with the music of “Joy to the World” blasting in my head.
Joy to the world! Our Lord is come! Good news, indeed. Merry Christmas!
Yvonne, I am so sorry for what you’re experiencing right now. May Joy to the World and every other Christmas song you hear bring you comfort and peace. Prayers.
Our sermon yesterday was life is good-bad-good. We end with good because of Jesus Christ.
Thanks for sharing a beautiful post.
Linda K. Rodante
Joy to the World! Thank you. We often forget the reality of Jesus’ coming–even at this time of year.
Beautiful post, Steve. I needed the perspective shift in my thinking. Life is on the stressful side right now, but my husband, my boys and I have our health. We have so much to be thankful for. I know many who don’t have that.
Jesus is the reason for our joy, not a thing, or even our health. Jesus. Thanks for the reminder of where I need to keep my heart focused during this season.
As a writer you knocked it out of the park for inspiration, comfort, perspective and focus.
As an agent – I’m sure you do the same.
At just the right time … Jesus arrived the first time.
The second time will be the same … everybody hang on.
Thanks for this beautiful encouraging post…Joy to the World is a very personal message if we’ll only shut off the noise and listen! Wishing you peace and much joy!!
Janet Ann Collins
This is a fallen world, but, because the Lord has come, it’s only the beginning. And God can use our writing, as He is using yours here today, to shine light in the darkness.
Yes and amen. Best blog this year 🙂
And when we say “WHY??” He says “To build you soul so you can live with Me forever.”
John 16:33: “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Karen Girl Friday
Steve, thank you for reining us back to this perspective; Joy to the world for the Lord has come. When Joy came, supernatural peace entered our humanity. While personal and world circumstances may be overwhelming, the peace of Christ overcomes. It transcends all natural forms. It outdoes. It overshadows. It outperforms. Every single time. It’s Good News to all people! Merry Christmas!
Thank you for this post, Steve. Just the message I needed this morning. Blessings to you!
Daniel J. Parker
Dr. Crawford W. Long , the first physician to use ether as anesthesia in surgery in the mid 1800s (and a fellow Georgian who was born 30 miles from my home) said , “My profession is to me, a ministry from God.” (Inscribed on his statue in Danielsville,GA). For each of us, whatever our profession or work is, be it laborer, waitress, physician, CEO, attorney or writer, then our work also provides a ministry for God. As an attorney, I have to keep reminding myself of this due to all the heavy, negative forces pulling on me. As a writer, it’s a prayer and a piece of cake for me. Your ministry is appreciated Steve.
Thank you! Your words encouraged my soul and reminded me why I write.
The trials in our lives strengthen us for service, very much as high-carbon steel is treated to harden it for uses where greater strength is needed. First you slowly heat the entire piece. Then you concentrate heat to make the area to be hardened red hot. Sometimes you pound the red-hot metal with a hammer to shape it better for the final use. Then you plunge the glowing metal into a liquid to quench it. The process makes the carbon crystalize, rather like making diamonds from coal or graphite. The faster the quench, the harder the steel. But the process isn’t over. The hardening can make the metal brittle and vulnerable to breaking. To avoid that, the steel is tempered by heating again to 400-600 F and allowed to cool slowly. The higher temperature makes the steel softer but tougher. The final metal is superior only because of the different heat treatments it received.
Each time I go through a painful experience, I know God is using it to temper me to make me a better instrument for whatever task He has waiting for me. Sometimes it feels like I’m being hit with a hammer while red hot; other times it’s that slow cooking at lower temperature.
Either way, I don’t like it, but it does make me stronger for His service. I don’t always want to while I’m in the middle of the suffering, but I should thank Him for that. What always helps is to remember He truly understands me in my suffering. He suffered so much more that I can even imagine, all because of His love for me. That’s what I thank Him for most of all.
Steve, you are so right that Our Father is the illumination of this dark world.
Yesterday I was greatly privileged to participate in my wife’s personal Christmas ministry that she started some years ago. She buys childrens Christmas gifts throughout the year to distribute at this time. One of her beneficiaries each year is the YWCA homeless family shelter in our large metropolitan city. She calls ahead to find out how many children they have this year and we deliver that many and about 20 percent more to accommodate last minute arrivals.
After bringing in the Christmas gifts we were talking with the front desk and security personnel, all dedicated Christians of various ethnicities and backgrounds. Our conversation, which had unconsciously grown in decibels with enthusiasm, centered on Jesus and the wonderful things He has done for us all throughout our lives. (My wife grew up as a child with five other siblings, mom and dad. Those eight souls all lived in a tiny rented single wide trailer in a rougher part of this urban city for years. They never had air conditioning and, for their safety, many times had to play inside.) Jesus was always the center of their lives.
Overhearing us, a young mother (looked maybe 20 years) came up and stood silently next to my wife. This homeless mother was a wisp of a human being that looked to be at about 100 pounds. She very much wanted to hear more about Jesus and the wonderful things He has done for all of us. I looked at her and could clearly see the black eye that hadn’t healed yet. This woman had been savagely beaten and either thrown out of or fled her home with her children. SHE HAD NOTHING. The Christmas that she and her children had to look forward to didn’t look promising.
Jesus has come to her aid when she desperately needed it with His kingdom and the Christians that populate it. She found shelter, love, safety, peace, acceptance and many other things that were currently absent from her violence permeated life. We all could feel the amazing grace of Christ in our midst during this completely unexpected event. It is our prayer that our testimonies may be of some assistance to this young mother and, through her, to her children now and in years to come.
Considering her plight any current worries we may have had evaporated into complete insignificance. My wife and I were the ones to receive another wonderful Christmas gift this year, unknowingly given by this young woman and her Father (as well) Jesus Christ to us. We remain eternally grateful.
This is why we write, to magnify the Good News beyond the (limited)audible sound of our voices.
Merry Christmas to all!
Thanks for helping to hear the bells of Christmas day, Steve, and not simply the dissonance of creation groaning its way toward the end times.
Love this, Steve! Thank you!!
Steve, thank you for your post, and the reminder that amidst despair, heartbreak, and loss, God offers the gift of joy to all who’ll receive it.
Patti Jo Moore
Thank you for this post, Steve. Just the reminder that so many of us needed. Christmas blessings to you. 🙂
Thank you for this post. You hold up the Reason we can have joy in these dark times–Jesus Christ–and the reason Christian writers need to keep writing–to let people know of that joy and to remind those who already know.
Thank you for this Steve.