Perhaps your earliest recollection of Christmas joy is like mine. But the seedling thoughts of a child blossom into a mature, lifetime joy that survives what life brings – if you really get it.
When I was a child, Christmas was about lights and decorations, a break from school, visits to family, sweets to eat, and gifts on the big day. Those were only glimpses of joy. Charlie Brown’s question was mine. “What is Christmas all about?” Linus offers the answer. “The angel said unto them, fear not. I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10, KJV).
Childish thrills give way to this deep truth: those good tidings deliver a great joy to people desperate for it. The context of Christmas this year includes no-holds-barred politics, the latest variants of COVID, Chinese and Russian saber rattling, and inflationary pressures. On a personal level, someone in your life is hurting, and someone is gone. Can joy be found in the midst of desperation?
An ancient people were desperate, occupied by foreign powers for hundreds of years. Their prophets told of a coming Messiah, yet the world in solemn stillness lay waiting. Then Mary received a messenger. She would bear the One the prophets foretold! Joy is found! “My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For the Mighty One has done great things for me and holy is His name” (Luke 1:46-47,49).
When Turkish author Senem Ekener lived in the U.S., Christmas time in the city and busy sidewalks dressed in holiday style were a new and joyful experience. But it was the story of Christ’s birth that humbled her, and led her to believe. “An indescribable amount of joy filled my heart and soul,” she writes, “as I fully embraced the gift of salvation undeservedly given to me.” She resonates with Mary’s humility and the joy she found. “God incarnate revealed Himself to humankind through a young woman. This is my joy of the Lord.” Joy is attractive, isn’t it?
Jesus’s intent is that “My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (John 15:11). God’s grace expressed in the Savior is the gift of lifetime joy in a fallen world that offers no such gift. That’s why we sing, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come!” Do you get it? That is no childish wonder or fleeting feeling. It is an abiding joy that is for a lifetime and eternity because it is the joy of the Lord. O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant! Celebrate your Christmas joy!