The Real Joy of Christmas
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In the midst of the bustle and noise of the holiday season, let’s take a moment to pause and reflect on the meaning of Christmas.
Imagine Israel’s longing as they awaited the promised Messiah. What would it be like to await the fulfilment of a promise for many generations? Think about that for a moment…
As modern-day Christians, we did not have to await the fulfilment of the promise, nor experience Israel’s longing over generations. However, we can appreciate afresh the joy of knowing our Messiah has indeed come and that God leads us and fulfils His promises to us today. We can feel deep, profound joy knowing that God Himself is with us! As it was foretold, He was born of a virgin for our salvation.
May this Christmas season find you joyfully considering the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ—Emmanuel, God with us!—Emmanuel Bible College1
The joy in the message
Each year when I read the Christmas story, I am impressed with the role that the angels play in it. … Think of the situation under which the Jews lived at this time. There had been revelations from God in the past. But now, for over four hundred years, the prophetic voice had been silent. Malachi, who lived in the fifth century before Christ, was the last of the prophets. Since his day no one had been raised up to declare the sure word of the Lord.
Had God forgotten His people? Had He forgotten His promises? Suddenly the angels appear, first to Zechariah and then to Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds, and the word is out: God has not forgotten! The time of fulfillment has come! ...
So, you see, if Christmas means anything, it at least means this—that God has not forgotten His people. This is the first message that I would leave with you. Do you sometimes feel that God has forgotten you? Perhaps you have prayed for something and have not received an answer, at least not the answer you were waiting for. This can be a very trying experience. But it does not mean that God has forgotten. It is just that His plans do not run on our timetables. Be patient! Trust Him! God has not forgotten you! ...
Perhaps you are one who longs for the Lord’s return. Things seem to go as they have been going from the beginning, and you want something better. That is good. That has been the cry of God’s people from the beginning—“How long, O Lord, how long?” God has not forgotten. Peter tells us that God delays only long enough to call to repentance all whom He has before determined should believe (“He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”—2 Peter 3:9). Jesus is coming! The God who did not forget us in Christ’s first coming will not forget us in His second.
The second message brought by the angels concerning the birth of Christ is the message to Joseph… Like the message to Mary, it has an important emphasis which, in this case, is the proclamation of joy. The angel said, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy ...” (Luke 2:10).
Joy is a wonderful thing; it is an appropriate part of Christmas. … Joy is of God. It is based upon what God has done, and it is given to the Christian by God and is sustained by God. … If you know this joy, then you can go on, as the angels did, to give glory to God; and you can possess that peace of heart and soul which transcends understanding.—Dr. James Boice2
Finding joy at Christmas
We hear more about joy during the Christmas season than perhaps any other time of the year. As G. K. Chesterton said, “Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian.” But what is our secret joy? The holidays can become so busy that the joy of the season feels elusive…
Psalm 16:11 states, “In your presence is fullness of joy.” This truth is simple. Joy is found by spending time in God’s presence, delighting in him. … The psalmist tells us to enter His gates with thanksgiving in our hearts, and to enter his courts with praise (Psalm 100:4). But when you’re weary and tired, running from one event to the next, thankfulness can get lost in the shuffle.
If this sounds familiar, take some time to daily record those things for which you are grateful. Whether you do this on your own or as a family, you will find yourself overwhelmed with gratitude and filled with joy that will extend beyond the season. Your failures will no longer seem important. …
When we focus on ourselves and our inadequacies, we feel insignificant and timid. There is no joy in that! No one feels like a perfect parent, spouse, or child. We all have flaws. On the other hand, when we focus on being grateful for all that God has done in our lives and on his goodness, our perspectives change! Focusing on the Giver of every good gift is the key that unlocks the door to joy. …
Nehemiah 8:10 in the New Living Translation says it this way, “Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!” Our spiritual strength is directly connected to our joy. This scripture hints that joy is a choice. When we choose gratitude, we choose his presence. When we choose his presence, we choose joy. We can choose to focus on the stresses of the holiday or on the joy that came into the world through a manger.
Joy is something deeper than happiness because happiness is determined by outer circumstances. Joy is determined by what is happening on the inside. … James 1 reminds us to count it all joy when we enter into trials and tribulations. We know the end of the story, so no matter what trial you find yourself in today, know that we win because Jesus paid a great price for our victory! This is the place of true, deep joy; the place where you discover that it all works out for your good anyway.
Find your joy today in God’s presence. Make a joyful noise unto the Lord! Gladly pronounce the goodness of God in your life! It will strengthen you, and your gratitude will usher you into his presence, multiplying your joy as you focus on God and his goodness. Joy to the world! The Lord is come. Let earth receive her King!—Kim Sullivan3
A Christmas prayer
You are God and man, King of kings and servant of all. You left Your throne of immortality and encased Yourself in human flesh. You became one of us, so that You could save us. Joy floods my heart when I think of how You quietly and humbly came into our world and changed it forever. Who could have imagined the transformation that would come through a little baby, born to commoners, wrapped in rags, sleeping in a feeding trough?
Whether times are good or bad, even if I don’t have anyone else, I will always have You and Your love—love that has stood the test of time, redeeming love, love that saved even me. Thank You for making the choice to experience both the joys and sorrows of our earthly life. Thank You for enduring the tears, pain, frustration, loneliness, exhaustion, and finally death so that You could truly understand us. Never has there been a more perfect love than Yours!—Casey Parker
Published on Anchor December 2022. Read by Carol Andrews.
Music from the Christmas Moments album, used by permission.