“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” ~ Luke 2:10
Merry Christmas to all our readers! Today, we celebrate Christmas! We celebrate the birth of our savior. We celebrate the good news that brings us great joy. And I hope you are experiencing a joyful day, indeed.
The Bible is filled with references to joy, being joyful, and the expression of joy – rejoicing. Some of those references point to the kind of joy we have when something happens that fills us with gladness – circumstances that put us in a time of joy.
In the Old Testament, we read about many days and feasts that were set aside for feasting and joy. We learn that God’s chosen people, the Jews, were joyful after a bountiful harvest and after being delivered from their enemies.
There are many times of joy mentioned in the New Testament as well. For example, the women who encountered the empty tomb were filled with joy and ran to tell the disciples that Jesus had risen from the dead.
But these examples, these “times of joy,” are situational – brought about by an event or circumstances. We have them too. Joy at the birth of our child. Joy that a loved one has been healed. Joy that our favorite team won the championship. And on it goes.
That’s the kind of joy the psalmist spoke of in chapter 126, verse 3:
“The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.”
Something good happened, so we feel joy. That’s not the kind of joy I want to focus on today. Let’s explore the “joy of salvation” mentioned in Psalm 51:12. The famous theologian, Charles Spurgeon, explained this kind of joy in this way:
“Believers are not dependent upon circumstances. Their joy comes not from what they have, but from what they are; not from where they are, but from whose they are; not from what they enjoy, but from that which was suffered for them by their Lord.”
This is an abiding joy. The apostle Paul knew this joy well – to the point that he bubbled out in song even when he was in a dark prison.
As reported in John 15: 9-11, Christ tells us about the relationship between His love and the kind of joy – a complete joy – that God wills for us.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
So does that mean that as Christians we have to be joyful all day every day? Are we supposed to be happy when we lose a loved one? Are we supposed to be joyful when we lose our jobs? Are we not supposed to feel disappointed when a big game we were looking forward to gets rained out?
It’s easy to confuse joy and happiness. Happiness comes and goes and is closely related to what is going on in our lives – the circumstances in which we find ourselves.
So how can the Christian be joyful always? The answer is quite simple. Circumstances change but one thing doesn’t: our God. And our joy is based in Him and the joy of our salvation, not on circumstances that can change from one moment to the next.
And the good news is that we don’t have to try to be joyful alone.
Just as the melody of a song has notes that are high and notes that are low, our lives are filled with high and low notes as well. But we, too, have a constant drone note that makes the way we live our lives, what we might call our “lifesong,” distinctive – the Holy Spirit. Just as the breath of the bagpipe player fills the bag to enable the instrument to be played, the Holy Spirit is with us always to help us live God’s will for us.
I truly do have that “joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart.” And I pray that even without a Christian t-shirt or the cross necklace I wear every day, those who come in contact with me for any length of time will see “what a Christian looks like.” I pray that it is so for you as well.
Thanks be to God for sending His only son, so that those who believe in him shall have the forgiveness of sins and everlasting life. And thanks be to God for sending us His Holy Spirit to be able to live His will so that people may come to know Christ through our abiding joy!
And now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.