Jesus’ birth is indeed good news of great joy. His birth is the fulfillment of promises that had been made from the time of man’s fall in the garden. His birth is the coming of the hoped for Messiah. His birth is the bringing of peace to mankind. And in all this, there is joy.
Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Joy flows throughout the Christmas story, but does it flow through you and me? Does it flow throughout our Christmas story? Does it flow throughout our life story?
Is Christmas a time of great joy, or is it a time of pain, tension, hurt, conflict, and loss?
Or maybe it’s a time of hustle and bustle and stress, too many to-dos filling the time, and not enough joy filling the heart. Or maybe there are smiles and laughter and times of happiness, but when the holidays pass, the discontent creeps back in; the dreams that go unfulfilled replace the dancing sugar plums.
As 2016 began, I picked a word for the year. A word I wanted to grow in, a word I felt God calling me to, a word that would drive out the discontent I felt. That word was joy. And this year has truly been one of growing in joy, of God calling me to greater joy in Him. It hasn’t been easy, it hasn’t always been comfortable, but I can say I have learned a lot and have grown a lot, and in Jesus, I have joy.
Maybe this Christmas, you’d like to start a new chapter. One titled “Joy in the Lord”. Pages of your story with joy flowing throughout.
As we look at the account of Jesus’ birth in God’s Word, we see many who were joyous, and we can learn from this story ways in which we, too, can choose to have joy as a part of our story:
Count instead of compare
Comparing our lives, our stories, our Christmas plans and parties to another’s focuses our attention and thoughts on what they have… and on what we don’t have. It breeds feelings of jealousy and discontent, and joy is choked out of our hearts.
Elizabeth could have very easily compared her and Mary’s callings, and felt she had been cheated by God. She was older. She had lived a righteous and blameless life. She had been waiting for a child. Why wasn’t she the one chosen to bring the Messiah into the world?
But Elizabeth chose joy over jealousy. Instead of comparing, she counted her blessings.
Bless and encourage
In counting her blessings, Elizabeth blessed Mary. She spoke encouragement and affirmation to Mary. Would Mary have spoken the beautiful words of joyous praise that follow if Elizabeth would have spoken out of jealousy instead of joy? We’ll never know.
But we do know how it feels to be encouraged and to encourage others. It brings joy to all.
Delight in God’s Word and promises
Mary chose to believe that God would do what He said He would do. She believed in God’s faithfulness and that He would keep His promises. And because of this belief she was blessed. Psalm 19:8 tells us that God’s Word brings joy to the heart. His word is truth, and there is joy when God’s truth guides us, rather than fear, shame, worry, selfishness or bitterness dictating us.
Make it personal
After Elizabeth blessed her, Mary gave praise to God. The worshipful words are found in Luke 1:46-55, and are known as “Mary’s Song.” And what a beautiful, joyful song it is. This song of praise is very personal. Mary rejoices in what God has done for her. She thanks God for who He is to her.
God is a personal God, and there is joy and rejoicing when our praise and thanks are personal. When we take time to notice and acknowledge the gifts and blessings God has lavished, bestowed, poured out, and freely given to us personally.
Share in joy
When Elizabeth gave birth to her son John, “her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.” (Luke 1:58) We find joy in what God has done for us personally, but full joy is found when we also “rejoice with those who rejoice.” (Romans 12:15) Is there anyone whose joy you can share in this Christmas?
Take a walk
Go outside and take in the beauty of God’s creation. Matthew 2 tells us of the Magi who saw a star, and followed it to Jesus. The heavens declare the glory of God; the stars were proclaiming that the glory of God had become flesh, and the Magi listened, and saw that Glory.
Getting outside for a bit gives us some breathing room and some space away from the crazy, hectic hustle and bustle, allowing for our hearts and minds to hear the declaring of God’s glory, and to see that Glory.
Jesus was born in a stable and placed in a manger. His first visitors were shepherds. There was no silk and satin. There was no luxury or comfort. There was no fawning of grandparents or gifts of diapers and bottles. Yet there was comfort and joy for all people in His birth. Even the simplest moments are full of beauty. The simplest conversations, gifts, traditions, meals, decorations are full of beauty if we take the time to be present and enjoy.
Cut the complaining and criticizing
Luke 2:19 says, “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” This is after she had given birth in a stable. This is after she had placed her newborn in a manger. This is after dirty, lowly, strange shepherds came to see her Child. Rather than complain about the conditions, rather than criticize the visitors, Mary treasured and pondered all these things. How many more moments would become treasures of joy if we chose to cut the complaining and criticizing?
Maybe one of these ways to grow joy in your heart stuck out to you. One thing you can intentionally do over the holidays to have joy in the Lord. To begin filling the pages of your story with scribbles of joy. To have joy flow to you, in you, and through you.
Let’s choose joy in Jesus this Christmas.
May your days be merry and bright,