Wednesday, Dec. 18 – April Hoelke

18 Dec

Wednesday, Dec. 18 – Joy

Today’s Scripture:
Jeremiah 31:7-14; Matthew 28:1-10

If you remember from Tara’s post, the Greek word for joy is chara. I love Greek, and I know that may seem strange, but it was when I began to study the biblical languages that the stories in the Bible came alive to me in new ways. I discovered images and concepts that I had never noticed before. I think (although I am not a linguist!) all languages depend on metaphorical concepts to convey ideas, and the meaning of what is said often extends beyond one single implication. I found this to be the case with Greek, at least, and the appeal of discovering these beautiful images within the pages of the New Testament makes all the grammatical frustrations of translating worth it!

There are two main definitions for chara in my Greek lexicon: (1) “the experience of gladness,” and (2) “a person or thing that causes joy.” I like this first definition of joy because it has a lightness to it. It isn’t overly theological or complicated, and it doesn’t require some sort of hyper-spirituality in order to be achieved. There are several examples of this usage for chara in the NT, and what is notable is that so many of them are related to a sense of gladness that comes from Christian fellowship, the work and movement of the Spirit, the coming of Christ, or the experience of faith. It seems clear from these examples that the gladness we experience in our daily lives finds its root in the work of God in us and in our world—work that has culminated in and is made meaningful by the resurrection of Christ.

Matthew’s gospel says that, upon being told that Jesus was alive, Mary and Mary went to spread the news with fear and great joy. The fear is understandable: they must have had all sorts of questions about how this could be and what this could mean. Their fear was outweighed by their joy, however. The gladness they had was rooted in hope; something great was happening (could they even have known how great?), and it was evidence that God was at work in the world in a way that would change their lives.

As Christians, we are able to live with gladness because of the hope we have in our resurrected Lord. In November, my aunt passed away after years of battling cancer. Although she had been pretty sick for much of the time, throughout the entire journey she exhibited a beautiful sense of gladness for life, for God, and somehow even for her journey of suffering.

Fittingly, her name was Joy—a beautiful prophecy over her life pronounced at her birth.

It was Joy’s hope in the work of God in our world and her life—all of it resurrection work—that gave her this sense of joy throughout her journey; she testified to this herself. And because she had such a strong disposition of joy through it all, she was a cause of joy for others as well. This woman, who day in and day out faced the end of her life in this world, carried herself with hope, with thankfulness, and with cheer, and she blessed others with her disposition. She was the embodiment of the first and second meanings for chara.

This is the hope of the resurrection: joy for today and tomorrow, no matter the circumstances, in life and in death. This joy is rooted in communion with our Lord, who as in Jeremiah 31 promises this joy even to those who are in the lowest of lows. It is a joy that changes our reasons for gladness from momentary circumstances to the hope of the resurrection. It is a joy that enables us to be a cause for joy in other people’s lives. Gladness that is rooted in the work of God is contagious.

-April Hoelke

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2 Responses to “Wednesday, Dec. 18 – April Hoelke”

  1. Banzen Warren December 18, 2013 at 8:57 am #

    Wow, what a gifted teacher and writer. You are wise beyond your years, April.

  2. martha flowers December 18, 2013 at 11:06 am #

    Yes. You have said it as it needs to be said. Not a feeling but a giving based on Christ’s giving.

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