Here we are, just 4 days away from Christmas Day. Christmas music is playing everywhere. Decorations are hung in windows and on houses. People are wearing Christmas sweaters and Santa hats. People are in and out of stores trying to get everything on their list. In the movie, The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, one of the main characters says Christmas just makes people seem “a little bit nicer”. It is a great sentiment, and in general the character is right. But let us not ignore another reality of this holiday…
To quote a song from our church’s Christmas Program a couple of weeks ago: “We have made Christmas way too hard. I’ve maxed out my credit cards. My pockets are all empty, I am broke!” This statement captures the other side of this “wonderful” time of the year. The part where we buy way too much stuff, decorate so much we can’t move in our homes, cram our schedules with parties and get togethers that instead of being great family time become sources of bitterness, frustration, and even anger or disappointment. It is the most wonderful time of the year. Right?
Regardless of where you find yourself in relation to what I just described, we should find joy during this time of year. Joy is way different than happiness. Happiness is a feeling that is impacted by the events surrounding us. Joy is something you have – in all situations. It is something you carry with you regardless of your circumstance. Part of this wonderful time of the year is the joy that we have in the birth of our Savior – who came to live the life we couldn’t live and die the death we should have died and to rise from the dead to bring us life everlasting.
But what do we do if we don’t feel joyful this time of year? For some of us, this is the first Christmas after the loss of a loved one. For some of us, it is the time of year when family is highlighted, but the family is broken and divided. For some, parents are going through a divorce. For some, a job has been lost. It is hard to seem joyful when those kinds of events are going on around us.
So again, what do we do if we don’t feel joyful this time of year? In light of the third week of Advent, often referred to as the week of joy, let us remember what Luke chapter 2 verses 8 through 10 says,
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An 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.”
God knew what He was doing then. He knew we needed joy, so He was providing it for us. Here’s the thing, there is no need for joy if there is no suffering or pain. The Christmas story provides for that dynamic. W. David O. Taylor wrote in Christianity Today International that the stories around the Christmas narrative “are stories of hardship, loss, and pain.” Jesus’ birth is an awesome moment in history, and it is a cause for great joy. It is also an encounter with joy – joy that looks into the face of hardship, loss, and pain and says that God can be trusted! He has fulfilled His promise. He has given us salvation. He has called us into relationship with Him.
So, this Christmas, regardless of whether things are “good” or “bad” in your life, remember that an encounter with Jesus (with the joy of the world) accounts for both suffering and merriness. This is the most wonderful time of the year because it reminds that Christ knows our suffering and has entered into it to bring us joy because of His love and His grace. Anyway, I was just thinking…
 Taylor, W. David O., “Why Putting Christ in Christmas Is Not Enough”, Christianity Today, 17 December 2018, https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/2018/december/putting-christ-back-in-christmas-not-enough-nativity-americ.html