… for the joy of the LORD is your strength.
Ahhh, the first day of December and the beginning of the Christmas season. Gift-giving, parties and caroling. School programs, tree trimming and crackling fires. Last-minute shopping, scurrying and migraines and … acck! Stop the madness!
Guess it doesn’t take much for the “Christmas joy” to turn into the “Christmas madness,” does it? If that’s how you’re feeling today, then it might be time to stop and reevaluate your priorities this month. Maybe this is the year when you rediscover the joy of the season.
So what is “the joy” anyway? In a word: salvation. God sent His Son to earth to save mankind. Jesus was born so that we might be “born again” and have new life in Christ. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). Now THAT is great joy!
The shepherds knew of this joy. In Luke 2, an angel of the Lord appeared to them while they were in the fields near Bethlehem and told them: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.”
Meanwhile, back in the east, the Magi knew about the joy as well. These astronomers saw the star in the East and came to Bethlehem, looking for the “king of the Jews” (Matthew 2).
Now … fast forward to the twenty-first century and let’s contrast our societal norms with Bible times. As a female, I immediately notice that the shepherds didn’t bring anything with them to honor the newborn King. And no one got upset. (That’s right … no hostess gift. Perhaps shepherdesses would have brought a casserole in a disposable pan and some scented potpourri in a decorative tin.) No, these men simply received some good news, and then did what they were instructed to do: spread the word about Jesus.
A little later, the Magi came and brought what they had: gold, incense and myrrh. They bowed down, and they worshipped the King. While these were pretty expensive gifts, I don’t think they broke the bank for these wealthy individuals. The Magi also didn’t carry them around in Neiman Marcus shopping bags in a grand display of their worth. The point is that they gave their very best and from their hearts. And I’m sure these gifts were of great financial help to Joseph and Mary in the days that followed.
Though they represented different ends of the spectrum, both the shepherds and the Magi came to worship the King. That was their focus for the season and not meeting perceived expectations of how they should celebrate or give or measure up with the next bearded guy.
We would do well to focus on this same joy. Not on who has the best gift. Not on who serves the best holiday buffet. And not on who has the most festively decorated house on the block.
Why? Because the joy of the good news is that salvation has come. Emmanuel is with US. Our Savior is Jesus! And HE is the one who puts the joy in our hearts.
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 expressible and glorious joy.
1 Peter 1:8
A little homework …
What is the joy of your heart this holiday season? Perhaps rediscovering the joy of Christmas means stopping the madness and scaling back your to-do list. Ponder this today (before the month overtakes you). And ask the Lord to show you how He would have you spend your time and resources, so that you may know His joy and share it with others this Christmastime.