Thursday, December 17, 2020

Completing our Joy

My small group has been meeting over Zoom and watching R.C. Sproul’s Dust to Glory video series, a survey of the major themes, events, and people in the Bible. In April, we landed in the Psalms. At the end, we discussed an idea found in C.S. Lewis’ book Reflection on the Psalms. In it he says,
I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. . . It is frustrating to have discovered a new author and not to be able to tell anyone how good he is; to come suddenly, at the turn of the road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur and then to have to keep silent because the people with you care for it no more than for a tin can in the ditch; to hear a good joke and find no one to share it with. . .
Praise completes the joy. This is why I like to share photos of the beauty I see around me on Instagram. It is why I share links for amazing music, articles, and ideas with family and friends. Not only am I celebrating what I enjoy, but I am drawing others into that enjoyment as well.

We see this throughout the Christmas story:

  • Mary, upon receiving the message of the Incarnation from Gabriel, could not keep her joy to herself and raced to meet Elizabeth.
  • The shepherds, upon hearing the Angel’s heavenly proclamation, ran to see this amazing thing for themselves, and then could not help but spread the word.
  • The wise men, upon discovering an extraordinary star in the sky, immediately set out to find the king it symbolized, so they could worship him.

We are people made to wonder, made to enjoy. And praise is the completion of that joy.
In an article written for The Cultivating Project, scholar and theologian Junius Johnson explores the idea of wonder and light in Advent. Though he doesn’t mention “enjoyment” or “praise”, I don’t think he is far off from Lewis’ view. He says,

The first work of Advent is not the transformation of the world into the wonderful, magical land of Christmas, but rather the revelation that the world is and has for quite some time been such a place. In our history, at a date and time we can roughly fix and at a place we can visit, God entered history, lived, died, and rose again. This world is therefore the greatest fantasy setting ever imagined.

Wonder shines, because wonder is light. All wonder is light, and all light is wonder-full, for every good gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights (James 1:17). Fundamentally, then, what we are watching for at Advent is the illumination of the world.
The arrival of the very Light of the World will illuminate all there is to see. As we reflect on the ultimate Gift God sent 2000 years ago, and the good gifts He continues to shine on us through the wonder of His grace, love, and mercy, this is a reminder that our response will influence our joy.

Lewis ends his reflection with this:
The Scotch catechism says that man’s chief end is ‘to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.’ But we shall then know that these are the same thing. Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.
“Glory to God in the highest!” the Angels sang to the shepherds gathered outside Bethlehem. It was almost a command. Go and see Him: a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

You will find Him. He is worthy of our worship. He is worthy of our praise.


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