Devotion: Lighthouse Baptist Church, Halbrook, MA- Dec 12, 2012
What is Joy? Joy is the feeling of great happiness or pleasure. Delight, happy, enjoyment, bliss. As you consider that angelic message, “I bring you Tidings of Great Joy.”
If anyone has a reason to be full of joy at this time of year, it should be a Christian. Have you ever wondered why some of us still say Merry Christmas? The word merry comes from an old English verb that meant “to shorten time.” It is similar to the German word for amusement or literally “short while.” You see, we are merry, or joy-filled, because we no longer have to wait for our Savior to come. He is here, now; His name is Emmanuel, “God with us.” The great joy of the Gospel is that God has become our Savior.
Consider the shepherds that night. They were the last people that should first get the angelic announcement of Christ’s birth. They were the religious outcasts of the day. They were considered filthy and ritually unclean. They were social outcasts, not even considered respectable enough to give testimony in a court of law. They were literally homeless and considered no better than common thieves. But this is who God wanted the angel to appear with the Good News of the Lord’s birth. How those shepherds must have been surprised! The appearance of the angel probably stood directly over their heads. They saw and heard the glory of the Lord round about them. Think about it! The night is pitch black, but now… it is bright as day. This sudden dazzling appearance no doubt made them feel deep fear… they must have felt as if something terrible was about to happen to them. That is the way many people are feeling this Christmas.
You might be like those shepherds that night. Fear is robbing you of your joy at this season. The world is filled with turmoil. We all worry about the next terrorist attack; our country is polarized by politics—politicians are calling evil good and good, they are calling evil. The future of our country seems uncertain.
As women, we all face different fears; maybe it is the fear of failing as a wife or parent–fear of abandonment by a mate—fear of losing a job—fear of a son or daughter heading down the wrong path—fear of cancer or another illness—the list could go on and on… The devil is the minister of fear. He clamps his icy fingers of fear around our hearts and we begin to think—what if…. I Peter 5:8 tells us that Satan is our great enemy. He is like a hungry lion walking around looking for victims that he can tear apart. He knows our weak points, and he makes himself aware of all our circumstances. He looks for ways to make us fearful and doubt God’s plan and purpose for our lives. He continuously tries to infiltrate our thoughts with his thoughts. His unending goal is to replace God’s truth with his lies. He knows that if he can control our thoughts, he can control our behavior. Satan wants to fill our minds with fearful and negative thoughts.
On the night of our Lord’s birth, the angel tells the shepherds, “Don’t be afraid and then furnishes them with abundant joy. Luke 2:10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. The Great Tidings of Great Joy is that God sent His Son to the earth to be our Savior. Praise the Lord! That infant baby grew up strong enough to take upon Himself our sins, and through Him we can have power over our fears.
Fear is not the only thing that can rob us of our joy at this season. Busyness also robs us of our joy. We can get so busy with preparations that we lose our focus and reason for the season.
Christmas today is becoming ever more commercial, expensive, hectic, pressured, impersonal, and materialistic and is dramatically different than it was a hundred years ago Merchants encourage people to shop for the holiday months in advance, but once the holiday selling is over, festivities end abruptly. The season has become more of a long and elaborate preparation for a one hour intense gift-opening ritual. Money making events have replaced religious traditions. It has become more of a frenzied time of obligation and stress than a calm time of joy and peace, and spectator sports and shopping trips to decorated malls have replaced family traditions.
In the nineteenth century, families rarely began holiday preparations before mid-December, and the celebration lasted for several days. Colonial families thought that playing games and making music with their friends and family were as important as giving and receiving presents.
A few years ago someone did a survey among children, parents, and child specialists. The survey revealed that children really only wanted and needed four basic things for Christmas:
The first need is a relaxed and loving time with the family. The greatest need of all children at Christmas–just like at any time of the year–assurance that they are very much wanted and loved by their parents.
The second need is a balanced attitude toward gifts. Ask any parent who has watched a child plow through a huge stack of gifts on Christmas morning, and then he looks at his child. His child looks as if he had just lost his best friend. Why? Because this child’s expectation of such a built up holiday has been shattered. When a family focuses all the excitement of Christmas on gifts alone, children will feel terribly let down.
The third need is an evenly paced holiday season. A hundred years ago, the Christmas festivities continued through New Year. There were Christmas parties, family games, and holiday traditions that kept Christmas alive for a least a week. Today, stores pack up special decorations and holiday music on December 26 because there is no more chance to sell.
The fourth need is to have strong family traditions. Many parents underestimate how important and valuable traditions are to their children.
- Traditions give children the opportunity to do something they enjoy year after year.
- Traditions also give children great comfort and security. Everything is children’s lives seem disrupted by the holiday season–school is out and parents are extra-busy. Children love will-defined traditions to embrace.
- Traditions let children know exactly how the season will unfold and bring them memories of past Christmases. When a family focuses all the excitement of Christmas on gifts alone, children will feel terribly let down.
If you are not feeling joyful this Christmas, ask yourself why? Real joy only comes from having a deep confidence in God’s sovereignty. You must trust that everything God brings into your life is for His glory and for your good. Joy does not come from our outward circumstances but from the inner presence of Christ in your life.
We must remember that a room full of shiny new Christmas gifts will never bring lasting joy. We have all experienced it with our children. Once their presents get lost and their toys get broken, they begin to lose their joy and begin wanting other things. The truth is nothing in this earthly life offers unending joy.
Once I accepted Christ as my Savior, I began to understand the meaning of true joy. Joy is not a happiness that depends on my circumstances or my mood. It is a joy that is constant. It is a joy that comes from His Spirit living within me and from me walking in fellowship with Him on a daily basis.
THE MAGIC OF CHRISTMAS IS NOT IN PRESENTS BUT IN HIS PRESENCE
In thy presence is fullness of joy Psalms 16:11