When you're six years old joy looks like a Barbie Dream House.
At twelve it's your own phone and a VHS tape of the Cranberries- one of the best bands of the 90s.
At eighteen as you drive away from your parents' house towards college, your joy begins to mix with something bittersweet...sadness. You want your independence. You want a new, grown up life, but you miss your home. Your joy isn't so simple anymore. Joy includes both loss and gain. Suffering and contentment.
As tough things roll in you start to wonder if joy is really real anymore? Divorce, depression, unmet expectations, and the falling away of loved ones and friends create the need for a paradigm shift.
A reassessment of what Luke 2:10-11 really means:
And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
The shepherds are petrified at the sight of this angel, but there is no need for fear. This sudden change fulfills God's promises to send a Savior. This good news cannot be denied or ignored. The shepherds immediately fled to the manger to behold this baby, praising God and glorifying Him for this gift.
The Greek word for "joy" found in Luke 2:10 is used 59 other times in the Bible. God's good news of great joy not limited to that first Christmas celebration. There are three distinct times that this word for a "calm delight" causes us to understand our joy far more deeply.
1. Hebrews 12:1-2 detail the joy endured by Christ as He met His death on the cross for us:
...looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
The JOY that was set before him? A brutal death, a humiliating and unjust sacrifice of life on our behalf was seen by Jesus as JOY? How can we sacrifice for others daily? How can we model our joy after the joy found in the cross? A joy that provided eternal life is truly a joy born out of sorrow.
2. James 1:2-3- the joy of our trials that grows us in a way that nothing else can:
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
Joy is not found in our circumstances. Joy is God's gift to us through our salvation (1 Peter 1:8-9). Joy is often called a choice, but to me it seems that joy requires an acceptance. Joy is God's gift to us, we must only accept that He WANTS us to be joyful. No matter what comes, we can rejoice in the refining work of suffering that produces an acceptance of the joy we already have in Christ. We don't have to wait for joy.
We don't have to cultivate joy- we have to believe that joy has already come regardless of present circumstances.
3. John 16:20, 22- the joy of God's return to rescue us from this bittersweet world and our eternity with Him in Heaven:
Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.
This joy shall never be taken. No matter what happens in this life, we are assured an eternity with God in a perfect place called Heaven. If this doesn't bring joy springing up into our hearts, I don't know what will!
This perfect baby came to Earth knowing His purpose and taking joy in His ultimate death for us. He became flesh and dwelt among us and took joy in knowing He would save us from the sin of this world. JOY.
Good tidings of GREAT JOY.
It's safe to say that I'm not getting a Barbie dream house this year. I'm not getting a new phone or any VHS tapes which serve to produce a short-lived happiness. This year I'm accepting JOY from a perfect Savior who came as a helpless baby when He was purely God.
I'm JOYFUL in spite of any unsatisfactory circumstances because God IS JOY. And I have Emmanuel with me every single day.
Rejoice in the good news- your great JOY.
Merry Christmas friends and family!! Love and peace for a wonderful 2017!
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Revive Me Again
When circumstances bring us down, only God can revive our hearts.