Christmas is the season of many things. At our church we are looking at four aspects of life that Christmas promises and guarantees for us. They are familiar words that you see all over the place at Christmas. One of those aspects of life is Joy.
At Christmas we talk a lot about joy. Joy is in our songs and cards. We plan and attend parties for work, parties with family and parties at church. Sometimes we do it all over again a week later for New Year’s. But is this what joy is all about? Presents, twinkling lights, eggnog, cookies and taking a breather from real life? What happens when real life reappears on January 2nd?
A large portion of the joy we see at this time of year centers in on the idea of “Christmas spirit.” Everyone is happy at Christmas, aren’t they? Anyone who doesn’t enjoy some carols, a roaring fire, or the lit up faces of happy children must be some kind of Grinch or Humbug. But reality tells us that there are many people who are anything but merry at Christmas, or any other time of year.
We tend to forget where joy falls in the process of living our lives. We always want joy to come now, to come before anything bad happens. That way, when something does happen, our joy “tanks” are full and ready to get us through. But joy is usually the result of getting through those difficulties. Here are a few thoughts about joy that help us remember what it is really like.
Joy comes after suffering and tribulation. If it came during our times of trouble we wouldn’t have to worry so much about what comes our way each day. When everything came crashing down we would just pick up our joy and be on with the journey.
Joy celebrates after the work is done. It pours out it excitement after it rests from the difficulty of labor. We can’t celebrate too far ahead of the finish line, or we just might stop and forget to cross over. To celebrate before the journey even begins means that we have little understanding or appreciation of the work that lies ahead.
Joy pulls us from a place ahead. We tend to think that joy will push us forward. If our “tanks” are full they will keep burning like a booster rocket sending the space shuttle into orbit or your car driving down the interstate. It doesn’t seem right to fill up after the journey. But joy takes us from a place of emptiness to a place of fullness. We start off without it in faith that after we arrive we will be filled with it.
Before Jesus faced His arrest and crucifixion, He spent a lot of time with His Disciples, teaching them so that they would be ready for the days to come. Talk about a situation where you need your joy tank to be filled ahead of time. Instead Jesus told them that they would have sorrow, and afterwards they would have joy. Jesus compared it to a woman going through the pains of labor, not full of joy, but desiring to have joy after the child’s birth.
“It will be like a woman suffering the pains of labor. When her child is born, her anguish gives way to joy because she has brought a new baby into the world.” (John 16:21 NLT)
Don’t let everyone around you tell you to give up or be discouraged because the road you are on is difficult. Instead, choose to press on so that afterwards you can rest from the journey and celebrate with joy because of all that is accomplished through it.
What if Mary thought it would be too difficult to travel to Bethlehem when she was so near to delivering her Son? What if Joseph decided that he didn’t want to marry the pregnant girl? What if God had decided that mankind just wasn’t worth the trouble of sending His Son to Earth?
Don’t quit. Don’t surrender.
Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5b NKJV)
For more about Christmas as the season of Joy, listen to or download my recent message, “The Season of JOY.”