“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
In Dickens’ Christmas Carol, the bitter old accountant Scrooge provides a memorable illustration. Tight-fisted and greedy, he lives in a universe so calculating and cold that no one escapes his suspicion. He is haunted by dreams of death, and dreads its approach. The dreams open his eyes and he sees a way out: “The time before him was his own, to make amends in!” No longer consumed with his own needs, he is free to love, and vows to dispel “the shadows of the things that would have been.” And as he runs from one old acquaintance to the next, he rediscovers the world around him with the contagious joy of a child.
The older we get, the more jaded we are by life, the joy of Christmas is often something that we reach for, but it’s not the same. I want to remind all of us that the magic, the joy of Christmas is not in the lights, decorated trees, or gifts under those trees. The joy of Christmas is found in Jesus. Instead of the stress and busyness that we tend to focus on, let’s remember that the season is about joy. Jesus didn’t come to live on earth so we could be stressed about celebrating his birth. Jesus came so that we could experience joy.
In Luke 2:8 we read, “In the same region there were shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.” Verse 10 says, “But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.”
Finding joy in life can be hard, no matter where we are. We could be financially secure for life, yet have no joy. We could be surrounded by family and friends and still have no joy. We could be involved in the things we love to do, yet still feel a lack of joy. What do we do?
Jesus was addressing His disciples in Luke 6:22: “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven…” Jesus also said in John 15: 9-11: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
How important is finding joy in our lives? It’s everything. Fortunately for us, joy was born in Bethlehem. This is why the heavens rang out with “good news of great joy.” He has come for us. We did not deserve it, we could not earn it, but God loved us so much that He sent His Son for us. The truth is we can’t manufacture the joy of Christmas within ourselves. We can’t stir it up like a batch of Christmas sugar cookies. We can only accept it as a gift: the gift Jesus offers us if we would only stop long enough to hear His voice and accept His invitation. And when we accept Him as Lord and Savior, we will find joy in something every single day – through people, through experiences, through adventure, but always through Christ.
I’ll close with Peter’s words in his letter to the early church; my prayer for everybody who attends Northstar or reads this devotional is that we hold these words close this Christmas; “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.” (1 Peter 1:8)
1. What is the difference between joy and happiness? How can we increase God’s joy in our lives? Why is joy an essential quality for believers?
2. In your own words, define what joy is in your life?
3. Why did the angel describe the news about the Savior as “great joy?”
4. Do you typically find joy at Christmas?