"Then the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people'…And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!'" (Luke 2:10, 13, 14)
This time of year it's so wonderful to hear the Christ-filled verses of Joy to the World, O Come All Ye Faithful, O Holy Night, and Hark the Herald Angels Sing filling the malls as we go Christmas shopping.
Carols about Jesus' birth literally transformed Christmas in seventeenth century England. The winter holidays had become so raucous with drunkenness and rioting that decent citizens were afraid to leave their houses, so in 1644, the English Parliament passed a law forbidding the celebration of Christmas.
Gradually, carols about Jesus became popular, and many began rejoicing at Christmas time with worship and praise. Christmas was proclaimed legal again—another good reason to keep Christ in Christmas!
When the angel sang the very first Christmas carol to the shepherds, he said, “I bring you tidings of great joy which will be to all people.” Joy is "chara" in Greek—meaning cheerfulness and delight—and is the root for "charis," or God's amazing grace. In giving us Christ, God gave unspeakable grace, His unmerited love and blessing. This is the most joyful gift we can receive.
The angels brought the shepherds “tidings of great joy" (Luke 2:10), literally "mega joy," and when the wise men saw the star, "they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy" (Matthew 2:10). In other words, the wise men were "vehemently shaking and trembling with joy!"
Today our world is desperately seeking joy. We want to be lighthearted and carefree because there is so much pressure, stress, and heaviness around us. Often we think joy comes from having more money, but if that were true Donald Trump would be a model of joy.
Seneca once gave this advice, "To be happy, add not to your possessions, but subtract from your desires." Quite possibly our pursuit of riches is the very weed that is choking out a joyful relationship with God.
Jesus told us to rid our hearts of these time-robbing weeds that keep us from Him. This Christmas, remember that true joy doesn't come from things, it comes from a deep, dear friendship with Jesus.
"...Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls." )1 Peter 1:8b, 9)
"And He said to them, 'Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.'" (Luke 12:15)
(Sent by permission from Pastor Wayne Taylor; firstname.lastname@example.org)