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Overwhelming Joy!

CS Lewis said it best: "Joy is the serious business of heaven."

Joy 1What gives you daily joy? My little ten-pound canine fur-ball, Captain Jack, tells me it’s playtime most every day by bringing me his ball to fetch. It’s such fun engaging his prancing and playful growling! Joy also erupts when sweeping my grandkids up into my arms for jolly hugs and kisses or cheering with victorious joy at a sporting event with thousands of fans. Serving at-risk people with my wife Nancy and our church friends each month at the Cloverdale Community Kitchen brings joy to those we serve, and to our lives. When we embrace joy in simple and profound ways, we embrace the Lord.

Blaise Pascal is renowned for his contribution to science, mathematics, and as the inventor the first elementary digital calculator and syringe. Pascal famously said, “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.” What is not so well known is the joyful encounter Pascal had with the Holy Spirit on November 23, 1654, at the age of 31. He wrote the mystical experience down (Night of Fire) and carried it inside his coat until the day of his death.

Here is an excerpt of Pascal’s words… “Joy, joy, joy…Let me never be separated from him. He is only kept securely by the ways taught in the Gospel. Renunciation, total and sweet. Complete submission to Jesus Christ and to my director. Eternally in joy for a day’s exercise on the earth. May I not forget your words. Amen.” [1]

The shepherds also felt joy like Pascal’s in their exuberant response to the angel’s announcement in the Christmas story. They were inspired to visit Jesus by their awe-filled angelic worship experience. After that, they joyfully told everyone what they had seen upon returning to their flocks (Luke 2:8-20). That same joyful worship empowers the church to go and make disciples everywhere. We are thrilled in our Mission Canada work to see post secondary students responding to Jesus’ invitation to follow Him on Canada’s campuses and grow as disciples. I often share these stories in our newsletters.

As a little guy, our youngest son Paul regularly burst into refrain at our dinner prayer times singing “Joy to the world, the Lord has come.” The challenge for us would be ending the hymn after he would launch into singing all the verses!

Joy 2We went through a significant season of joy (and grief) when Paul was hospitalized due to a vehicle accident and in a coma at 18 years old. Our family was in shock and grief, but God’s peace and joy took over amid an uncertain outcome. Nancy and I even had opportunities to pray and minister to several traumatized people who were also in the ICU waiting area yearning for updates on their loved ones. Once, I witnessed an immediate answer to prayer with a woman whose nephew woke out of his unconscious state. The woman burst back through the ICU waiting area door after being with her nephew. She fixed her gaze at me beaming with joy and exclaiming in front of everyone, “He opened his eyes! I have faith!” What an incredible and joyful moment. Ministering to people in our crisis is transformative for them and us.

Paul woke up from his coma after 30 days. Following months of rehab, we received our severely brain damaged son back from the hospital just before Christmas. Many PAOC friends who journeyed with us joined in rejoicing. You would not know that Paul had experienced a severe brain injury ten years ago if you met him today. He is currently moving closer to achieving a Master of Divinity and working part-time in campus ministry for Mission Canada. Paul’s faith in Jesus is vibrant, and the joy of the Lord shines brightly in his life.

Joy 3Joy in God’s kingdom economy moves through the love of the Father who gave his only Son (John 3:16). God knew the personal cost and grief it would bring. But oh, the everlasting joy in heaven for those who believe in the gospel of Jesus. We join the angelic host singing, “Joy to the world the Lord has come. Let earth receive her king. Let every heart, prepare him room” …through every trial and seemingly impossible situation. Amen. May great joy be in your serious business of heaven this advent season.

Advent reflections shared by John Engels, Mission Canada SERVE Campus Coordinator.