This is a day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.Psalms 118:24
Today is the first Sunday of Advent and we have, untraditionally, begun with the candle that represents Joy…The reality is that we are in the middle of a mess, uncertainty seems to rule the day – what is there to enjoy? The virus has killed, the hospitals could get overwhelmed, the election…, there are riots in the streets of our cities; racism, bigotry, and division are made to be everywhere.
China, Iran, and North Korea threaten our wellbeing economically, with the threat of war, and with nuclear destruction. The world just looks more dangerous. Our streets seem less safe. The assault on our Christian values and our rights as citizens appears constant.
And we are not the first to wonder, not the first to experience uncertainty, and certainly no the first to cry out to in midst of uncertainty and calamity to God. Yet we, as Christians, are called to be joyful, not to enjoy what we are experiencing but to have joy and rejoice, not only now in the Christmas season, but always.
Before I get to how we choose Joy we need to understand what is being talked about. There is a lot of controversy over joy verses happiness. Having joy is more than experiencing happiness, though the feeling of happiness is a part of joy. But the joy of the Lord that we have as Christians goes beyond just feelings of happiness. I can have joy in the midst of turmoil and tribulation, because the joy we speak of, the joy we have, is within us, it is of God! The Joy of the Lord is my Strength! God’s Word says this in Nehemiah 8, “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” It is His joy that is placed within you at salvation.
Joy is a part of the fruit of the Spirit, listen to Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” The fruit of the Spirit… The joy of the Lord!
During times of trouble and tribulation it would be much easier to give into our feelings, to feed the feelings of despair and unhappiness. But, unhappiness and despair are like being happy; they are temporary, a product of the circumstances and situations of life. Whereas joy… joy can overcome anything and everything if it is allowed, if it is chosen. We must choose joy!
But how can I choose joy? Especially now when I am stuck at home, when all I hear about is the uncertainty and chaos going on (out there) in the world?
You can choose joy, always, because of the coming of Christ, because of Christmas! Because of the cross, the life given, and the blood shed for you. Because God is for you and with you, listen to the psalmist from Psalm 16, “You reveal the path of life to me; in your presence is abundant joy; at your right hand are eternal pleasures.”
Even before Jesus’s birth, He brought joy to the unborn: John the Baptist. God’s Word tell us that upon hearing Mary’s voice he “leaped for joy” in his mother’s womb (Luke 1:41-44). After His birth in Bethlehem, the angels announced, “good tidings of great joy” to the shepherds (Luke 2:10). All who have Jesus born into their lives now, know like the shepherds of old, the joy He brings: there is joy in the Lord!
Listen, it is the Christmas season! We are to celebrate the birth of mankind’s savior! To celebrate the joy of the season of giving. God gave His one and only Son to take away the sin of the World, to take your sin and mine if we choose to believe (see John 3:16-18 & John 1:29).
When the feelings of doubt and despair, grief and loss, come upon you; stop, take a breath, and choose joy.
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.Isaiah 41:10
The Lord is my strength and my song; he has given me victory.Exodus 15:2
Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.Nehemiah 8:10
- Do you have the fruit of the Spirit?
- Does the joy of the lord fill your heart?
- Can you rejoice in Jesus as Lord?
For you will not abandon me to Sheol; you will not allow your faithful one to see decay. You reveal the path of life to me; in your presence is abundant joy; at your right hand are eternal pleasures.Psalm 16:10