Although I’ve made it tradition to read the Christmas story every year at Christmas time, this rehearsal of an old story is anything but a dead, formal ritual. Year by year, it unwraps some new gem to be treasured. It speaks fresh wonder into my soul every time I come to meditate upon it. The Word of God truly is alive!
This year, the revelation I’ve been beholding in the Christmas story is that of joy. Joy not just meant for me, but for the whole world! Can you imagine with me for a moment what that truly looks like in the scope of its intention?
We all know what it’s like to behold a newborn baby. It is a sight that attests to the existence of a miracle-working God. We “Ooh” and “Ahhh” and “Goo-Goo,” “Gah-Gah” over little bundles of joy whenever we have the opportunity to do so, and this is as it should be. New life invites a renewed perspective, a refreshing reminder that there is still innocence and great possibility in our world. There is still Someone bigger than we are Who is intentionally at work among us.
We also all know what it’s like to admire a little bundle of joy from afar. Whether because the child isn’t part of our own family or intimate circle of friends, or maybe because there are extenuating circumstances which prevent us from getting up close and breathing in that new baby scent – beholding joy from afar looks and feels different. It is more fleeting and less moving. We pause to share the joy for a moment, but then – immobilized by the limitations, we accept that the moment must yield itself back to the ordinary business of life.
I remember when my first child was born. The sense of awe and wonder lingered for many days – possibly weeks (my memory is a bit fuzzy on the details…17 years and 10 kids later!). But there came a day when my husband woke up and said, “The wonder is gone.” I knew what he meant, because I felt it, too. The magic in the air that came with new life had faded into routines and efforts to survive the chaos that had now become life with a baby. We still cherished the moments, but we had lost the tangible sense of joy and wonder.
Birthdays are a special time to recall and relish in that wonder – to recreate an atmosphere that lends itself to remembering again. Christmas, too, has become a soul-stirring opportunity to behold afresh the wonder that sometimes gets lost in the rituals and the routines. It’s a perfect time to stop the madness of ordinary life and plug back into the sacred and the amazing. It’s a chance to refresh our souls with the reality that there is more to our lives than we tend to settle for in our busyness and chaos.
But if that’s all Christmas becomes for us, then we remain a people who are destined to wander in cycles of routine, only punctuated by the occasional feast. I can’t help but protest this, because when I read the Scriptures and feel the Presence of God within my very soul, something stirs in me to press for more.
Emmanuel – God with us – isn’t someone else’s revelation, given for us to admire from afar. It is the Christ-Child, the bundle of joy given for all the world to behold and to embrace. There may have been no room at the inn on the night when He was born, but for centuries, He has knocked on the door of every heart, looking for a place to come in and dwell. That’s supposed to be me and that’s supposed to be you. And the joy of beholding this miracle of new life is meant to impact every part of our existence. Because Jesus came to Earth, to be born as a man, and then died and resurrected for us, our lives are made brand new as we embrace Him by faith.
The Hope of all the world – the Living Hope – isn’t just a memory we celebrate. He isn’t just a tradition we remember once a year. He is the Good News that was given to transform our reality! And everyone – from shepherds to Kings to mommies and everything in between – we have all been chosen to receive this incredible gift of permanent, life-changing Presence!
So why does joy feel like such a fleeting thing? Why do so many speak of having lost their joy? I believe it’s because we don’t have a right understanding of real joy, and the source of its flow.
We can no more lose our joy than we can lose our life – not until the day we are appointed to die. As long as we have breath in our lungs, if we have opened the door of our hearts to Christ, hope remains within our souls. This is because hope is not a feeling, it is the reality that belongs to us because of a Person. And the Presence of the living God – the very essence of hope Himself – when once He has come, has pledged to never depart. (https://www.gotquestions.org/living-hope.html)
This is good news! The same Good News that the Angel announced on the night that joy was given as a gift to the whole world.
The hope that lives within us is the source of our joy, because the Spirit of the Living God enables and empowers us to believe that God loves us and is always working everything out for our good. This positions our hearts to rejoice even in the difficult and painful parts of life, because we know we are not left to ourselves to figure it out. We can confidently hope in the One Who has promised to not only be with us in all of it, but to cause it to work out the way that He, in goodness, intended it to. (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+5%3A1-5&version=NASB) (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=romans+8%3A28&version=NASB)
Hope like this – rooted in the right source, influences our thoughts and attitudes. It leaks a fountain of joy that never runs dry and is not dependent upon our circumstances.
Joy, like hope, is so much more than mere emotion. It is our eternal possession. While we can lose sight of it, we cannot lose it unless we walk away from the God Who has given it.
So how do we avoid losing sight of joy, since joy, the Word of God says, is our strength? (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Nehemiah%208%3A10&version=NLT).
The answer is found in the way we choose to walk each day. When we walk in the Spirit, all that God has given is available and accessible. It is easy to see and believe. When we walk in the flesh, however, nothing that God has given is easy to access or believe. It boils right down to our intentional connection with the gift that God gave to the whole world: His Son. Every day, all day long, we have the incredible gift of knowing Him, of drawing near to Him, of having access to His heart, of being known by Him through the Presence of His Spirit.
It is possible to believe in Jesus and not know Him, to not partake of the hope and the joy and the peace and the power and the promise that He came to give. Even the demons possess belief like this. But that was not what God intended when He delivered the Good News of an ever-present Saviour. He came so that we would and could know not the God-up-there, but the God-within-us. A wellspring of life and joy. A miracle of new birth and the hope of potential and promise we could behold every single day.
There are other things that can affect our experience and awareness of joy – things I hope to share with you in later posts. And there are simple and practical disciplines we can build into our lives to cultivate the full experience and expression of joy. I hope to share those with you, as well. But for today, I invite you to unwrap and take an up-close peek at the wonderful gift of joy we have been given in Christ.
In a few days, Dear Woman of Breakthrough, you and I will have the opportunity to celebrate Christmas. My hope for you is that your celebration – whatever the outward trappings may look like – will be rooted in deep and abiding joy. I pray you will know more of the reality of the gift God intended for you to have in knowing His Son.
May the pronouncement of joy call your attention to the timeless and powerful revelation you were meant to embrace and live in. And may you find that His strength is your portion today and every day of this holiday season and beyond.