Behold: Joy

Today is a day for rejoicing! 

After all the festivities and frolicking and fellowship with family and friends, it is easy for us to crash into despondency and even disappointment the day after Christmas. So, instead, let us choose to set our minds on Jesus today–to look on Him with grateful hearts for all He is and all He’s doing. Let us behold Jesus with joyful hearts.

A Year of Joy

If you’ve followed me for a few months, you know that joy has been my word of the year. As I turned the corner of 2020, another year full of challenges and change, I determined to live with more joy–having no idea that in many ways 2021 would hold as many struggles as its recent predecessors. Unable to see the future, I had no way of knowing just how much I would need joy.

I started the year sick, only to get COVID in February. By April I started coming around, but by May I hit more health speed bumps, which required many rounds of antibiotics and steroids (for which I’m grateful). To say my life has become sedentary would be an understatement. Ha! So, my body is fluffier and less willing to go the long hauls, but I can sincerely say I’ve only had momentary bouts of self-pity or pouting or pleading with God for healing. Because in my seeking joy, I have found its source.


And He’s been teaching me that as my source of joy, He needs to be my focal point. In Him I’m to remain. To abide. To dwell. To draw near. To behold consistently.

Looking Waaay Back

Turns out, Jesus’ way of joy is not new. Prophets have been calling people to joy for millennia. I’ve loved looking through Scripture this Advent for ways its writers use the word behold–and joy–a great bringing-together of two words that have come to mean so much to me and my faith journey. Here’s a good one:

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

Zechariah 9:9, ESV

Rejoice is a call to be filled with joy, to sing and shout out that joy to the Lord. So when Zechariah, a prophet to God’s exiled people, commands them to have joy, it is strange, even awkward, because of the exiles’ dire and desperate circumstances. But its message of hope holds much to be rejoiced over. It delivers word of a righteous king who is coming to be their Messiah! 

On the foal of a donkey.

Photo by Zachary Kadolph on Unsplash

I can almost hear the cheers at the news of a coming king, one who would deliver them and help restore their nation, but I wonder at their response to the mode of his arrival. Most kings in history rode into cities with great fanfare and upon the most regal of horses, so surely this would have had the exiles scratching their heads. 

Because we have the gift of living later in history, we know who this donkey-riding King is. Yet, the strangeness of His entry can be missed by us because it’s a story we know so well. All four gospels, in fact, capture the details of this special and unique event. Both Matthew and John take it a step further by quoting Zechariah–that weaving-in of Old Testament prophecies as a way to point out their fulfillment in Jesus (Mt 21:5, Jn 12:15). 

Every Palm Sunday we celebrate, rejoicing in Jesus’ “triumphal entry.” But, how many times do we wave our palm branches and sing the hallelujahs without truly beholding Christ? When we put our full focus on the One riding the donkey, the One who in doing so puts Himself intentionally in the sight of people who want Him dead, our breathing speeds up and a lump forms in our throats–because we see. We see what this king is doing. And we recognize that it is for the joy that is set before Him that He does this (Hebrews 12:2).

So, when I look back to Zechariah’s words to people in much worse circumstances than I have ever faced and see a call to rejoice–when I look upon Jesus riding toward His death for joy’s sake–I realize that joy is not situational. This rejoicing, it comes from an inner place, soul-deep and Christ-focused. Much like the peace that passes understanding, the joy of the Lord transcends earthly conditions and emotions. And they’re both best perceived and experienced when we are focused on Jesus and surrendered to His upside-down ways.

Ours to Behold

Even as I write this, I’m realizing that to behold Jesus is the way to experience this kind of joy. Full attention. Full release of assumptions. An un-grasping of what I think I need (to have, to be, to do). 

Friends, when we behold Jesus, we perceive Him more fully and are better able to choose and embrace the joy He offers.

Maybe that’s why when the angels light up the sky with God’s brilliant glory to deliver His message to a group of lowly shepherds, they launch into the news with “behold” and speak of joy:

“And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.’” 

Luke 2:10, ESV

Behold! Jesus is that good news. And that should bring us great joy–no matter what day it is or what our circumstances are.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

So, on this day that feels like the end, let’s, instead, turn our eyes to behold Jesus–the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and the Omega. And, let’s rejoice! Because we know that Jesus lives. He saves. And He continues to work and move and live among us!

Come and behold Him, born the King of Angels!
Joyful all ye nations rise, join the triumph of the skies!

  • I constantly have our Behold playlist going in the background as I write, and the lyrics of these songs inspire and keep me focused. I love that some of our most beloved carols capture the truths I’m just now coming to understand more fully–like those in “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” Such a beautiful coming together.
    • The last few songs on our playlist consistently repeat the refrain to behold the Savior, to behold the Lamb of God. And in that beholding, rejoice! Sing those hallelujahs loudly with soul-deep joy! Then, tell others. And keep Him crowned the king of your life.
  • The New Year us upon us! I know my new word of the year is dwell. So, I’m sure it’ll be showcased in my upcoming New Year series. I hope you’ll resolve to make Jesus the focus of all you will do this coming year. And, I humbly hope that you’ll continue to meet me here and invite others to be part! Because together, we can keep learning to behold Jesus as our King of Kings, our precious Lamb of God.
    • What’s your word of the year for 2022?

Featured Photo by Tanya Trukyr on Unsplash

Published by Shelley Linn Johnson

Lover of The Word. And words. Cultivator of curiosity about all things Christ. Lifelong learner who likes inviting others along for the journey. Recovering perfectionist who has only recently realized that rhythms are so much better than stress-inducing must-do's.

7 thoughts on “Behold: Joy

  1. Jesus came in as our King in the most humbling and lowly way…a baby in a manger upon the hay and the walk to his final hour as he entered town upon a donkey. He has no requirements of us, just to accept his greatest gift of all… HIM❤️

  2. I love this Shelley! I have to share that this Christmas Rae Ellen (my granddaughter) constantly reminded my that “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” is her favorite Christmas song and then of course she sings it to me; every word!! ❤️

  3. Thank you, Shelley for the reminder that our joy is not situational based on our circumstances but is available through abiding in Jesus Christ.
    You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11

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