Luke was a doctor who lived in the first century. Like most doctors, Luke valued facts and obtaining accurate information. That's why he spent so much time interviewing people and talking to eye-witnesses when he prepared to write his Gospel record of the life of Jesus Christ. Let's read some of the Christmas story as he recalls it for us …
That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased." Luke 2:8-14. NLT
Here are these shepherds out in the fields minding their own business when suddenly an unidentified dazzling object appears in front of them. It's an angel and the shepherds are terrified! The angel's opening words are, "Don't be afraid". I'm sure the shepherds were thinking, "You've just scared the living daylights out of us and you'll telling us not to be afraid!"
Anyway, once everything had calmed down, the angel delivered his message: "I bring you good news of great joy for all people …" The Christmas message is just that – good news of great joy for all people.
JOY is a major theme of the Christmas story and that's something we all need. I've never met a person whose aim in life was to be sad, depressed and grumpy. Ask the average person on the street what they want out of life and most of them will say something like, "I want to be happy!" We all long for joy.
Interestingly, we look for JOY in many different places:
- Some of us look for joy in stuff – in things. There is an entire advertising industry designed to make us dissatisfied with what we have now and to make us believe that if we buy what they are selling we will know true joy. Kids are getting pretty exicted about opening those Christmas presents next week. That will bring great joy! But most parents know that in a week or so, many of those same toys will be lying around and the joy will have diminished, at least a little.
- Some of us look for joy in pleasure – fun. Maybe it's going to a movie, visiting a sports game, or that big Christmas meal. Oh, the great joy of that delicious roast turkey and pavlova. But in an hour or so, for many that great joy will have turned into great pain as we suffer the consequences of eating just a little to much!
- Some of us look for joy in achievement – acquiring that job, getting that promotion, or winning that game. But within a year or so, the joy of those achievements often fade.
Joy is quite elusive. It's hard to find and even when we do, it's hard to hold on to.
Interestingly, all of these sources of joy are external. They require some coniditon or circumstance outside of us in order for us to be happy. But Christmas brings us a JOY that is not based on certain circumstances. It is found in a person – Jesus, the Saviour and Lord of the world. Paradoxically, when we receive Him we can know joy even in the midst of challenge, adversity or pain.
So this Christmas, I pray that you will make room in your life to receive joy – the joy that is in Jesus.
I also pray that you will choose joy and then keeping choosing joy every day of your life. Joy can so easily be stolen away – by irritations, worries, anger, or the offences of other people. Always ask, "Is this worth losing my joy over?" More often than not, it isn't.
Be grateful, be hopeful, be worshipful and be joyful. Then spread that joy to others … this Christmas.
Quotes about JOY
"Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God." Teilhard de Chardin
"Joy is a byproduct of life with God. Joy is not found by seeking it as an end in itself. It must be given by God. Joy comes with God's presence.” Tremper Longman III
"Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day." Henri Nouwen
"Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." Abraham Lincoln