I am not sure that joy is a word that most people use today. It is definitely an older word. Yet the Bible reminds us that what was happening that very first Christmas would bring joy into a person’s life. So the question is; What is joy? and How can a realize it in my life?
There are many definitions for joy. One online dictionary defined it as “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.” Merriam-Webster provides us with a more expansive definition, “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.” The challenge with this definition of joy is it becomes something that is elusive. It is something that you can experience for a time and then it is gone. I wonder if most Americans are striving for happiness 100% of the time. The reality is, this is just not possible living in a broken world. The sad reality is that our lives our consumed by the pursuit of this phantom form of joy. We give our lives to find satisfaction in the latest purchase, we get excited about taking the perfect vacation, we feel happy when our relationship are going smoothly, we rejoice when we obtain a goal and we are elated when we are appreciated. Yet all of those feelings only last for a short season. The Christmas season reminds us of our predicament. Just today I spent almost 20 minutes getting out of the parking lot of Costco. The joy of giving gifts is a contrast to the stress of obtaining the gifts. We see this in almost every aspect of the holiday season. What is true during the holidays is also true during the other eleven months of our lives.
So when the Angels proclaimed to the shepherds, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” (Luke 2:10) what exactly are they promising. I came across this Biblical definition that I really like. “Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.” Take a moment to read this definition again slowly and think about it. It challenges us to look at life from the perspective of one whom has a relationship with God, as one whom God is his perfect father! The Bible presents joy as an inner confidence that is even keeled during the high points and especially during the low points in our lives. The simple reality of knowing, like the young child holding the father’s hand, that we are safe.
There would be temporal excitement of the fulfillment of the arrival of the promised Messiah. Yet, the real significance of Christmas, is the inner change that it would bring into a follower of Jesus life once they believed in Him.
So, let me ask you to stop and evaluate your definition of “joy.” Are you on that endless roller coaster of ups and downs seeking a temporal form of joy? Or are you experiencing that quiet confidence that comes from a permanent relationship with you heavenly father. The key to finding Biblical joy can be summed up in one statement, “by changing what you determine to focus on and think about.” The Apostle Paul stated is best in a letter that is known for its emphasis on joy, ““Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8–9) Can I encourage you this season not to focus on what you don’t have or what is not happening to focus on what you do have in Christ and the difference that relationship makes in your life. May we all grow in finding this true joy this Christmas!
-Pastor Joe Parkinson