“Always be full of JOY in the Lord. I say it again – REJOICE!” – Philippians 4:4
Living joyfully is NOT a momentary emotional expression, but rather a daily steadfast constant choice that no matter what life brings we choose joy. This is exactly what my Grandma Nadene Reed did. For her, each day began with this statement that I can still hear, “It’s gonna be a happy day!” Now, if you knew her life’s back story, you would immediately know that for her the word ‘happy’ was actually the decision expressed and packaged in the biblical word JOY. Grandma was actually stating that no matter what occurs in life, “It’s gonna be a JOYOUS day!” She chose JOY as she chose Jesus. Will we? She knew the truth expressed in Nehemiah 8:10b, “…be not grieved or depressed, (why? how?) for the JOY of the Lord is your strength and stronghold.” Wow! Who needs to experience that JOYOUS truth! ME! You too? Oh yeah!
See, joy is not happiness. Joy IS a constant mind-set defining and supporting all of life, an ever-flowing endless stream. Joy IS independent of and is NOT defined by life circumstances, good or bad; and in fact, is strengthened and refined by them. Joy comes from and rests in God’s presence and our personal relationship with Him. As Psalm 16:11 says – LORD GOD, “You lead me in the path of life. I experience absolute JOY in Your presence; You always give me sheer delight.” As Matt Maher said, “Joy is returning to the true Source of your deep abounding gratitude, peace and pleasure of our delight which is God Himself.” Will we choose JOY as we chose Jesus? He alone is the true Source of JOY!
The shepherds knew this truth – very well. In that day and age, shepherds were at the very bottom of the social order. They were down there with the sick, diseased, left-overs, unwanted, unloved, forgotten about, looked over, ridiculed and of low reputation. They stunk from tending their sheep 24/7. YET – YET it was to them, again in a magnificent paradoxical inversion, that the angels FIRST TOLD the ‘good news of great joy’ that the long-awaited Messiah and Christ-child had arrived. The Savior of the world. Uh wow!
The significance? When we feel all alone, unloved, unwanted, forgotten about, looked over, ridiculed and when life looks bleak, oppressive, dismal and dark – JESUS looks us in the eye and says to us – to US, “I get it. I’ve been there too. I understand. Here, choose Me. Choose JOY!” Paul David Tripp notes, “God knows what it’s like to be homeless, hungry and rejected…He knows accusation and injustice…to be forsaken by friends…to be faced with temptation…to stare evil in the face…He understands death and suffering…[NOW] Jesus, sits next to God and greets us NOT WITH harshness, condemnation or impatience BUT WITH understanding and sympathy.” That is the advent – the great coming. Jesus first came to save us from our sin and is coming again to save us from the last judgment in order that we can spend eternity with God in His presence. Now, that is reason to ‘shout for JOY to the LORD all the earth and burst into jubilant song…” – Psalm 98:4 Oh yeah it is. You betcha! I choose Jesus! I choose JOY!
So, I’m not sure what you are experiencing currently. And I realize that the hectic holidays can conjure up deep rooted joyless thoughts and emotions, but it’s here that we recall what the angel FIRST told the shepherds, “I bring you good news of GREAT JOY for all the people…a Savior has been born for you; He is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11. Jesus alone is our true Source of JOY. Not our possessions, position at work, our power or prestige, not even other people – Jesus alone is our Source of JOY! So pause with me right now and pray Psalm 51:12, “God restore to me the JOY of Your salvation…sustain and support me.” Pray that again, “God restore to me Your Joy!” So today. Right now, I choose Joy. I choose Jesus. Will you? As the coffee travel mug I recently bought says, “Joy is your weapon!” Oh yeah! You bet it is! I choose Jesus. I choose Joy! Will you? Post that statement where we can see it. Truly!
“Joy to the world, the LORD has come, let earth receive her king…”
JOYFUL blessings on you and yours this Christmas season. Choosing Jesus! Choosing JOY!
Doug Reed // Lead Pastor