By Pastor Jason Paul
The Joy of Christmas is everywhere around us. Many words and phrases come to mind around Christmas time. We hear words like joy and peace and phrases like joy to the world, Merry Christmas, O Holy night, Peace on Earth, and Happy Holidays. Lately, I have been thinking about the word joy. What is the true meaning of joy around this time of year? How does a person experience joy during this Christmas season? Christmas can be a time of blessing and happiness or sadness because of lost loved ones or loneliness. But even if you find yourself in either category, you can still experience joy around Christmas.
The word joy is defined as an emotion evoked by well-being, success, or experiencing good fortune. Is the joy of Christmas found in shopping or when we get together for a holiday meal? Are we experiencing the joy of Christmas when we unwrap our presents or when a loved one unwraps theirs? Or maybe you find yourself where the joy of Christmas is stolen from you, and you would love to experience the joy of Christmas once again.
Recently, two of my daughters participated in a dance recital, and one of the songs they danced to was titled “Where are you Christmas?” Maybe you remember that song? It was a power ballad written and recorded for the movie “How the Grinch stole Christmas.” As you listen to the song’s lyrics, you experience a roller coaster of emotions from the perspective of someone looking back on Christmas. You share the joy of Christmas from a young age. Then the joy you once had around Christmas becomes lost as time goes on. Finally, the joy of Christmas becomes real again when you remember the love you felt at Christmas. A love that turns into joy and fills your heart. The songwriter says, “the joy of Christmas stays inside us and fills every heart with love.”
Is the joy of Christmas found in love? In one word: Yes. Christmas is when joy came into the world as a baby; his name is Jesus. Because God so loved the world that He gave his only Son to bring joy into the lives of those who seek him. Christmas is when God can show up and fill you with joy, expectedly or unexpectedly. Mary and Joseph experienced the joy of holding the newborn baby when Jesus was born. The shepherds experienced joy when they saw Jesus for the first time. The joy of Christmas can be found when you expect it or when you least expect it. Christmas is still a time when you can expect to find joy, just as Mary and Joseph did when they were expecting the birth of Jesus.
The angel Gabriel delivered the good news to Mary that she would give birth to the Messiah. For nine months, Mary and Joseph were expecting the entrance of Jesus to come into the world as a baby. In Luke 2:1-7, we read the story of Jesus’s birth. “And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So, all went to be registered, everyone to his city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (NKJV)
When Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph were filled with joy. Just as new parents expecting their first baby or child from adoption experience the joy of welcoming a child. For Mary and Joseph, on the first Christmas, they found joy in welcoming their firstborn Son into the world. Just like children who are joyfully unwrapping presents on Christmas morning with their parents gleaming with joy. Mary and Joseph received a gift from God, the same gift that anyone can receive today. Will you accept the joy that only Jesus can offer this Christmas season? No matter where you find yourself this Christmas, expect to find joy in the little things even when you least expect them.
The joy of Christmas can also be found when unexpected. As with the case of the Shepherds who watched their flock by night.
“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them. (Luke 2:8-20 NKJV)
The shepherds unexpectedly found joy when they confirmed the angel’s message as they met Jesus for the first time. The shepherds knew about the birth of the Messiah but did not know the child until they met him. When they met Jesus for the first time, they were unexpectedly filled with joy and made it known to their friends and family.
Maybe you know the Christmas story but do not know Jesus because you have not met him yet. Just like the shepherds knew about the coming Messiah, they did not know Jesus until they met him. The joy of Christmas is found when you meet and enter fellowship with Jesus Christ. Jesus will bring true joy into your life, and when the joy of Christmas may seem stolen, you can find expectant joy in Jesus.
As you meet Jesus for the first or the 100th time, Jesus wants to fill your heart with love. The joy of Christmas comes from knowing Jesus on a relationship level. Will you accept the free gift of Salvation that only Jesus can provide this Christmas season? When you accept Jesus into your heart, He will stay with you and fill your heart with joy and love.
I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13 NLT)
To learn more about knowing God, go to www.abidinginthefaith.org and click on the know God button. Find us on Facebook at Abiding in the Faith.
God bless everyone this Christmas Season.