“Joy is the serious business of heaven,” wrote C. S. Lewis. Whatever the musical key of “the concert of the age,” on the eternal day when God’s people from across the ages, people of every tribe and tongue, all band together to praise him, joy will be the tone and timbre of every single note.
And we don’t have to wait. Whenever Heaven bursts in unexpectedly right here on earth, joy marvelously overflows the banks of our hearts and spills out in delight.
A tsunami of joy started one morning long ago and has not stopped, its source a little-used tomb in Palestine. Unquenchable Light and Life spilled forth as our Lord breathed new life and death’s bonds were loosed forever. The joy-flood that burst through the mouth of that stone crypt still flows freely, an unending spring of the water of life.
The words of John of Damascus (d. 749) are as true today as they were over a thousand years ago when he contemplated “The Day of Resurrection” and urged, “Let all things seen and unseen / Their notes in gladness blend / For Christ the Lord hath risen, / Our Joy that hath no end.”
Delightfully drenched by that joy-flood, the Apostle Paul exclaims, “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20), or as Eugene Peterson paraphrases in The Message, “the first in a long legacy of those who are going to leave the cemeteries.”
No, that kind of joy can’t be contained. You can’t successfully ignore it, quench it, throttle it, demean it, crucify it, bury it, roll a stone over it. You might as well try to bottle up the liquid light of the Milky Way in a paper cup, capture Niagara Falls in a Boy Scout canteen, contain and control a nuclear reaction in your cupped hands.
It won’t happen.
Not in this life.
And not in the next.
So it’s a good thing to get an early start praising the risen Lord, tilting our heads back, our faces heavenward, and allowing the flood of his joy to start washing over us right now.
While his blood washes away the stain of our sins, his joy becomes the flood washing away the dust of a drought-stricken world, the grit that would have relentlessly ground down our lives into despair.
While Satan the accuser and a host of less poisonous but still dangerous and depressing finger-pointers and tongue-waggers hurl insults to shatter our joy, hobble our delight, and dry up our spirits, Christ, alive and life-giving, stands at the right hand of the Father defending us, upholding us, proclaiming the truth that we are his, and delighting to claim us.
Yes, the joy-flood started long ago, flowing forth from the angels’ words to the astonished women at the tomb: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!”
Because he lives, joy lives! “Our Joy . . . hath no end.”
Copyright 2012 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.