Where's the Joy?

A few nights ago as I asked one of my unbelieving friends how he was doing, he paused and said, “I’m ready for January!” I smiled and replied, “December does tend to be a hectic month; so much stuff going on.” Nodding in agreement, he then affirmed that he’s already tired and exhausted and December has just started.

You surely notice I said this was one of my unbelieving friends … well of course this person wouldn’t know the joy of the Christmas season, the grace that Jesus brings; he would not have experienced the new birth of regeneration and would not have God’s Spirit dwelling in him; he’s operating from a very worldly perspective that doesn’t see Christ as all-sufficient; he has not submitted himself to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We can’t expect unbelievers to walk around with joyous expressions, speaking words characterized by hope, living in the excitement that God is making all things new, having positive attitudes that focus more on gratitude than complaining. Of course he’s tired, exhausted, without hope, frustrated, weary, and skeptical of the supposed “joy” that the Christmas season seems to promise.

But how many of us … believers, followers of Christ, disciples, redeemed, adopted, regenerate, born again, Spirit-filled … feel pretty much the same way? So very many of us Christians are tired, weary, live with little joy, act as if we have no hope, complain, and are skeptical of the supposed “joy” that should be present during the Christmas season. And as if this frustration we share with unbelievers wasn’t enough, we have the guilt of knowing we shouldn’t feel this way. And to top it all off, the Christmas season always seems to highlight the normal struggles of life - grieving the loss of a loved one; strained family relationships; financial woes; scheduling needed family time; overeating; anxiety over traveling; etc.

Don’t you wish there was a simple formula to use to capture or recapture the joy of Christmas? Well, there sort of is … it’s called preaching the Gospel to yourself every day. This doesn’t guarantee you’ll have more money to buy gifts, it doesn’t make traveling any safer, it doesn’t automatically restore broken family relationships, it doesn’t make our departed loved ones come back, and it won’t automatically create better eating habits - but it can and will allow us to enjoy the sufficiency and contentment that can only be found in Jesus Christ. The Gospel is real, true, powerful, and beautiful. And though it may not cause our circumstances to be any different than those of the unbeliever, it literally does change our hearts. Our challenge is to believe it. So let’s pray for more faith … ask our Father to pour out His Spirit on us and allow us to see our own sin and need of a Savior … pray fervently to be saturated with His peace and comfort … plead with Him to immerse our hearts in the soul-satisfying grace found only in Him … beg Him to grant us an ever-growing faith in the person and work of Jesus.

And know that this really is something that our unbelieving friends don’t and can’t have. So are we praying for them? Are we sharing the good news with them? Are we inviting them to church so they can hear the Gospel and see it displayed in the lives of God’s people? There’s plenty of God’s grace to go around to everyone … let’s believe it, feed on it, and share it.