“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 NIV
We are two days away from another Christmas holiday. Many have already begun celebrating a season that is supposed to represent peace, love, hope and joy. It’s the season of giving and receiving. For Christians, it’s also the season to celebrate Christ’s birth which represents miraculous events that can only be explained through a belief system that supersedes human logic.
Christmas can also be a season of stress, exhaustion, worry, depression and sadness. In two days there will be children waking up to no presents, not even a Christmas tree and maybe even no food or heat in their homes. Families will gather for dinner with at least one empty seat reminding them of a loved one whom they lost this year. Kids will divide their time between households of split parents who may or may not get along. Somebody is going to get drunk or misuse drugs to self medicate. Fighting and abuse will increase. Not every household in our neighborhoods and cities will be filled with love let alone experience Christmas joy.
Personally I have seen life threatening illnesses attack family members and community members. There are people who will be fighting for their lives over the Christmas holiday. I have also seen marriages and relationships recently come to end. In two days there will be people experiencing Christmas without their spouse or significant other whom they lovingly shared this holiday with in the past. If children are involved, they will be spending this holiday away from at least one of their parents adjusting to a new normal. People have or will lose their jobs or perhaps have been jobless for months. In a season that is supposed to be happy and joyful, suffering seems to insurmountably increase. So the question is, how do we find joy in such desperate and heartbreaking circumstances?
The answer? Joy in all circumstances is found when we turn our focus to Jesus. Christ’s birth is the perfect example of bad timing and finding joy amidst dismal situations. Mary was a virgin who’s fiance’ thought she gave herself to another man. Joseph married a woman pregnant with God’s baby and couldn’t consummate the marriage until after Christ was born. The mockery and judgement they must’ve endure would be enough for even the strongest in faith to question God. But then in the end stage of Mary’s pregnancy they have to travel a distance for census purposes. This was not flying coach or calling an Uber. This would consist of riding a donkey or camel for days. There was no telephone or internet to make reservations ahead of time so when they arrive in Bethlehem they find no lodging available. One innkeeper offers them his barn to sleep in.
I’m going to interject right here-this is Mary, carrying God’s child. God, the creator of all universe, all powerful and all knowing, knew Mary and Joseph’s story all along. Nothing surprises Him. God knew before He ever put Jesus in Mary’s womb exactly how Jesus would enter this world-in a barn among farm animals. This was not a clean or sterile environment. I can only imagine that this was not the ideal place Mary would have chosen to give birth to any of her children, but especially to God’s son. If Mary’s faith was like mine, she would’ve had super high hopes for an elaborate birth and be sorely disappointed when she was laboring in a barn. But when it was all said and done, Mary “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19 NIV) Jesus was born into a world filled with sickness, disease, addiction, abuse and heartache. He was born into this world because it was filled with such sadness. His purpose was to save us all from the demise of a fallen world.
Cancer, stroke, heart disease, pneumonia, divorce, discord, anxiety and debt do not care that Christmas is 2 days away. Bank accounts don’t magically have excess for Christmas presents and special holiday dinners. Loneliness doesn’t take a vacation on December 25th. Christmas doesn’t gift the return of a loved one who passed away. There is nothing in this list that exudes joyfulness or describes Christmas as the most wonderful time of the year. Yet God calls us to joy. Choosing joy means praising God amidst the storms that heap pain, sorrow and devastation. Choosing joy means clinging to God’s promises and faithfulness even when He feels so far away and we question what His plan is. Choosing joy means gratitude for another day to celebrate Christmas even though our worlds may be crumbling. Choosing joy means knowing God’s timing is always perfect and victory will always be His even when it seems as though our enemy is winning. If nothing more, choosing joy is simply an act of obedience because God tells us to choose joy in all circumstances (Philippians 4:4.)
Christmas carols celebrate joy. Decorations are adorn with the word “joy.” No matter what we are facing today there is always a choice to live in our feelings or to choose joy. Joy in all circumstances will always bring peace that exceeds human wisdom. When you know that kind of peace your faith will soar because you will finally believe God’s promises will be fulfilled no matter what chaos is happening right now. Every circumstance reflects a season. Christmas is a season of joy in spite of our circumstances. Take time to sing the lyrics to this Christmas classic today and every day this week with a mindset of choosing joy. When you hear these words, “JOY TO THE WORLD, THE LORD HAS COME…” Belt it out with a heart that chooses joy and watch how unshakable your faith becomes.