When we look around, it would appear that "joy" has skipped a lot of hurting people around the world. There have been earthquakes, tsunamis, recent flooding and on-going famines. Our economy has plunged many into desperate times because employment opportunities and the stock market continue to remain bleak and unstable.
Closer to home, I've watched two families say good-bye to loved ones who have died from terrible cancers, and just last week a couple in my church lost their tiny baby girl at eighteen weeks gestation. Locally, a large homeless population, including entire families, goes unaided despite several shelters and charities like the Salvation Army. Today, I'm praying for a vibrant pastor friend who suffered a heart attack.
Obviously, people are suffering, and as Christmas approaches, their plight is brought forward to linger in our consciousness. As Christians, how do we minister to those whose happiness seems just out of reach, or buried beneath circumstances beyond human control? How do we ourselves keep a focus on joy when everything around us seems to be falling apart?
Jesus said: "I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly." How is that even possible given the above mentioned situations? If God says that abundant life (joy) is possible in the impossible chaos of civilization, then we must surely realize that joy is not the same as happiness.
This is what Oswald Chambers said about joy. "Joy should not be confused with happiness. Jesus prayed that our joy might continue fulfilling itself until it becomes the same as His. Have I allowed Jesus Christ to introduce His joy to me?" "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full." (John 15:11)"
He whispers, or shouts, calling us by name..."come receive from Me the abundant life." What amazing, miraculous transitions are birthed when despite what goes on around us, near or far, we accept the intimacy of His invitation and remain focused on Him.
God brings life out of dark places from habit. New life comes from the darkness of the womb, and from the vast void of nothingness came His creation. (Genesis 1) He desires to bring hope to those who suffer through the dark night of the soul for He is HOPE. Joy comes from fixing our eyes on Him because He is JOY, and therefore, we can lay all expectations and suffering at His feet. However, it's been my experience this does not come without repetitious, faith filled, effort.
Christmas is the perfect reminder that God is on the side of mankind despite the fact He does not spare extreme hardship or even agonies of the flesh. We can still hail "joy to the world," because JOY came to the world for our soul's redemption in the form of the Infant King Jesus...our Emmanuel...our God with us.
Despite young death, old suffering, or the onslaughts of nature, we may partake in the riches of God's joyful glory ...and not just at Christmas.
Merry Christmas and JOY to your world!