“They rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.” – Mt 2.10
On Christmas 2013, I preached a sermon that argued that God matched the Shepherds “fearing a mega-fear” with good news of “mega-joy.” I loved that sermon, and I’ve been thinking of it here in this Christmas season. It came to mind again today as I read of the response of the wise men when the star stopped over top a house in the Judean countryside.
“When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.” That’s the NRSV’s version of Matthew 2:10, and it was enough to pique my interest. So, I opened up my ten year old version of Bibleworks to look at what Matthew actually said. Young’s Literal Translation handles the Greek original in this way, “And having seen the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy…” I’m not a grammarian, but I did notice that they handled the adverb rather poorly, so the SJP Translation goes, “they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.”
That’s what the joy of the Lord is like, “rejoicing with exceedingly great joy.” That’s a whole lot of joy; joy enough to overcome even the darkest nights, the hardest hours, the toughest days. It isn’t the sort of happiness that Joel Osteen promises in terms of ease of life and toothy smiles, but joy that sustains even when it feels like all hell is breaking loose. That’s the sort of joy that the Wise Men will have to draw from when they escape Israel while hiding from Herod, the sort of joy Mary and Joseph will need when they flee to Egypt, and the sort of joy that the people of the house of David will need as Herod’s fear means the slaughter of innocent children. Joy that sustains even in the darkest hours, that’s the joy of the Lord.