Unspeakable JOY!

unspeakable-joyTo be sure, this was my truth growing up. I could not wait for Thanksgiving to be over so we could put away the pumpkins, turkeys and little Pilgrim figurines.  Every day I counted down to that day . . . Christmas day . . . when we would finally get to open the presents under the tree, see everything Santa left behind, hoping it would not be a stocking full of coal, and bring baby Jesus out from behind the stable to lay him in the manger. Well, I am a whole lot older and a little bit wiser now, and it is still the most wonderful time of the year for me, but for a very different reason. Today, it is no longer about the presents under the tree or the gifts left behind by Santa. And it’s not about laying the ceramic baby Jesus in the manger (in fact, most of the Nativity scenes come with the baby already fastened in place – so no surprise on Christmas morning when He appears).

 

“Mary will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God with us’” (Matthew 1:21-23).

 

Here is what makes Christmas the most wonderful joyous time of the year. The promised Savior of the world has come to save his people from their sins, and that includes you and me. Here is a wonderful reminder of the wonder of Christmas. Here we see the biblical truth that Jesus was born not only to be with us . . . but to save us from our sins. The Bible makes it clear that we are all sinners by nature and our behavior makes it clear that we are all sinners by habit too. “And the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). God’s justice demands sin must be punished to protect his holiness. Either we must die or we must have a substitute to die in our place, and this beloved, is what makes Christmas the most wonderful time of the year. Our Substitute is Jesus who was the only baby in the world ever born to die! In a word, this is JOY unspeakable.

 

Joy in the Bible

Did you know that the word JOY is in the Bible over 650 times, whether we read it as rejoice, rejoicing, glad, gladness, delight, or joy. Not just joy, but “great joy” is the primary mark that undergirds the entire Christmas story.  Let’s take a look.

 

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields keeping watch over their flocks at night. And angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savoir has been born to you, he is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger’” (Luke 2:8-12).

 

Christmas is the most wonderful joyous time of the year when we remember the reason for the season. It is the “good news” that will cause “great joy” for all the people. But if we get caught up in the cultural commercialism of Christmas, it won’t be long before we “X” Him out, and our joy will be replaced with anxiety, stress and disappointment. The “good news” of “great joy” is not to be found in shopping mall savings or stuffed stockings hung by the chimney with care. It is the gift of God’s Son who is the savior of the world. From his cradle to his cross, his entire purpose was to save us from our sins.

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Recapture the Joy

To recapture the wonder and joy of Christmas this year, let us go down to Bethlehem with the eye of faith and the heart of love.  Let us join the wondering and fearful shepherds and hear afresh, the proclamation of the angel . . . “I bring you good news that will cause great joy.” Remember, the good news was not to cause our happiness because happiness is rooted in the circumstances of life. When things are good we are happy. When things are bad we are sad. But with this promised joy of the Lord, it remains untouched by circumstances because joy is an inside job. It is not rooted in circumstances. It is rooted in Christ. This is what makes Christmas the most wonderful joyous time of the year.

Two thousand years ago wise Magi sought out this child born who would be savior of the world. Their joy was unspeakable as they adored this new born baby born King of kings, and Lord of lords. We would do well to spend more time throughout this Christmas month seeking Jesus rather than the sales at our favorite stores. Keeping Christ in Christmas is the key that unlocks the door leading to great joy, regardless of the circumstances life throws your way. So, regardless of where this finds you today, fear not and remember what the angel said, “I bring YOU good news of great joy!” It truly is the most wonderful joy-filled time of the year when YOU remember the reason for the season . . . Immanuel . . . God with YOU!!!

Merry Christmas!

 

Tommy Boland is senior pastor of Cross Community Church in Deerfield Beach. He blogs regularly at tommyboland.com.

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