Friday , July 19 2024

Great Joy

By Jodi Thomas –
I have a confession to make.  When I first see Christmas decorations at the beginning of November, I feel a wave of anxiety come over me. Some of you think that’s crazy.  For you, Christmas is truly “the most wonderful time of the year.”  Like my friend, Debbie—who literally wants to leave her Christmas tree up all year long (whereas mine is headed to the recycle lot on December 26th).  Or my son Cole, who begins listening to Christmas music in October.
Don’t get me wrong.  Like Ricky Bobby in Talledega Nights, I am all about celebrating baby Jesus.  But it’s all the other stuff—the shopping, the spending, the cooking, the baking, the wrapping, the getting Christmas cards in the mail on time. . . it just Wears Me Out.  I think I have a disability when it comes to crafts, decorating, and shopping.  So considering all those activities are a large part of a gal’s job when getting the fam ready for Christmas, it’s no wonder I’m overwhelmed.
Then there’s other parts of the holiday season that can make it tough.  Missing my family who live far away.  Feelings that linger of not-so-great Christmases when my parents divorced.  Thirty years later I can still feel a sense of melancholy arise, simply because I felt anxiety and dread so many years when we had to leave my single mom at home crying to go to my dad’s.  Divorced homes make Christmas a challenge, as many of you know.
For many, Christmas is often a blend of sweetness and pain.  Pain from memories, of missing loved ones, of feeling the stress of finances or lack thereof.  For some, it is the loneliest day of the year.  Right now I have several friends, stumbling through their days, trying to recover from losing their infant baby girl, from a spouse’s infidelity, from caring for their mother who is literally losing her mind, from taking the 30th chemo treatment.  Life is tough.
But this is what I come back to.  Christmas is about Jesus.  It’s about the one who left everything (John 1:1), and became nothing (Philippians 2:7), because He loved us.  In the middle of our yuck, our sin, our junk, God loves us and His heart is to rescue us.
Without a doubt, my favorite part of the Christmas story in Luke 2 is this:
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 of great joy that will be for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.
Good news of great joy!  I love that.  And it’s true. . . Jesus is great news!  His presence in my life has truly brought great joy because:
. All of my sins—past, present, future—have been paid for by Jesus’ death on the cross. (Romans 5:6, 8)
. There is nothing I can do to make God love me more.  I am OK because Jesus has made me OK. (Romans 5:1)
. No matter what life throws at me—and it has thrown a lot—I am not alone.  Emmanuel is with me. (Matthew 1:23, Hebrews 13:5)
. I have peace. (John 16:33)
. His love is not based on me, but on Him. I am loved No Matter What. (1 John 3:1, Ephesians 2:4)
And the same is true for you!  The same good news of great joy is for all the people.  So, the great joy of this Christmas season is not in candy canes, beautifully decorated trees, presents, and cookies, although all those things are fun and great (especially the cookie part).  The great joy of Christmas is Jesus!  A savior.  A Savior who longs to rescue us (often from  ourselves) and who longs to be with us (all the time).
I love these lyrics from Oh Holy Night:
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger, Behold your King!
Before Him lowly bend!
This Christmas, regardless of what you are facing, a Savior has been born unto you.  He knows your need and He loves you—no matter what.  Like the shepherds of so long ago, this Christmas may we know and celebrate the good news and great joy of Jesus!

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