Remember Joy

December 12, 2016 § 2 Comments

Two Thousand Sixteen has been a rough year, personally. It began with a corporate acquisition that left me with more work and less pay. My mid-year introduction to the elder board at church coincided (coincidentally, I hope) with a slew of new problems. I spent the last half of my summer seeking treatment for sinus trouble. Parenting took a frustrating turn as our son’s behavior in school did too. The November election seemed to please very few human beings. Now as the year closes—in fact in the last week—I see a coworker’s 36 year old husband entering hospice, attended the funeral of a neighbor, and had a friend I’ve been mentoring just watch his apartment and all his possessions burn to the ground. Life sucks like that sometimes.

The word JOY is propped up and lit up in our front yard during this time of year because joy is one of those words people associate with Christmas time. This is also when people reflect on the past year, try to see the positives and resolve to make the next one better, but often fixate on the year’s struggles. Is there room for joy here?

There is. And for Christians, we should have a monopoly on joy. Why? Because we have a sorrow-proof hope, a hope that goes even beyond the silver linings others look for in this life.

For the friend who lost his home, he can say that at least he has his health. For the one who’s lost his health too, at least he can say he and his loved ones are alive. For the sick who have lost loved ones, at least they can be consoled because their loved ones are no longer suffering. Sooner or later though, we run out of silver linings, either because life gets really bad or our own pain keeps us from seeing them anymore. But beyond the silver lining, there is gold.

Christians should have a monopoly on joy because of what Christmas celebrates: The coming of a quite literal bundle of Joy, Jesus our Lord and Savior, bringing joy to the world. From man’s first sin, God has been working to redeem us from sin and the misery it brings. Absolutely everything in this life, even death, will be made right. If that’s true, hope in Jesus Christ gives us absolutely everything. Eighty or ninety or a hundred years of misery on earth is nothing compared to a moment in heaven in God’s presence. If this is our focus, joy will follow. Shouldn’t it? Christians are defined by our identity in Christ, not our circumstances, and eternal joy is our destiny. That should change things for us. While it’s appropriate to mourn, our inner joy shouldn’t stay inner. It’s part of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5:22).

Jesus said: If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love.  These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:10-11) I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Paul said: “Rejoice always… (1 Thess. 5:16) In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy. (2 Cor. 7:4) May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13)

James said: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” (James 1:2-3)

Even Habakkuk, having hope in the promised Messiah yet to come, said: Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LordI will take joy in the God of my salvation.” (Habakkuk 3:17-18)

More than a feeling (cue Boston guitar into), joy comes from knowledge of the truth of who we are in Christ, unworthy recipients of the grace of God in eternal salvation. A lack of joy means we either don’t have this, or have forgotten this, and either way we are in trouble. If our faith is not in Jesus, it’s in things that can’t save us from eternal misery—things like positive thinking, optimism, or whatever drug we use to feel better or make things go our way. Are you a Christian who just isn’t feeling it? If our faith IS in Jesus, then the joy that resides in us is merely forgotten—and who knows what other truth we’ve forgotten as well. Remind yourself and each other of the hope you have, and be the bearer of joy that others would do anything for.

“And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.'” (Luke‬ ‭2:10-11‬)

Christmas Reset

December 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

Another year is nearly gone, and it’s about time to purchase next year’s calendar. It’s also a great time to think about what we are actually counting with our calendar. Earth history dates back further than 2018 years, but something happened along the way that brought about a historical reset in how we count our days.


Around 523, a monk named Dionysius Exiguus was commissioned by the papal chancellor Bonifatius to come up with a way to simplify important dates that resulted from the Church Council of Nicea. Until this time most people counted the calendar years from the reign of the Roman emperor Diocletian. Instead of a human ruler, Dionysius wanted to honor Jesus Christ, so he reset the calendar to count the years since the birth of Jesus. It turns out he was off by 7 years in his calculations, because evidence suggests puts the birth of Jesus around 7 BC before the death of Herod the Great (Matt. 2:19-20). But the objective was to begin calendar year 1 with the first Christmas.

With the help of the English monk Bede in the century that followed, the new calendar counting method popularized by the Church finally stuck, and it became the new standard for the current Gregorian calendar now followed by most of the world. The birth of Jesus marked year 1, and time as we know it was reset.

Think about this time-altering event that we celebrate in particular at Christmas but acknowledge continuously by the millions of elements in our lives that rely upon the current date. When Jesus was born, time was reset. God becoming flesh to dwell among us, to live and die in our presence and in our place, was the reset in God’s redemption plan for His lost creation. The covenant was renewed, grace was restarted, a sin-corrupted world was rebooted, and we are redeemed by the reset of our hearts to follow Jesus.

Apparently the calendar needed a reset around Jesus Christ, signaling the fact that we do too. We wish you a very merry Christmas, and may the Savior and giver of life and new beginnings mean even more to you in AD 2018.

Christmas Within Reach

December 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

God, who looks upon us from above, chose to be born as a humble baby looking up as everyone else looked down on Him. Not born to a king in a palace so that only the elite could relate to Him, but born into poverty and anonymity, in a feed trough surrounded by manure. The Bible says Jesus later grew in wisdom and stature, but He was born in an animal stall to say that God’s salvation is not beyond the reach of anyone—rich or poor, free or slave, clean or dirty, healthy or sick—willing to embrace a little humility as one would embrace a little babe. Merry Christmas.

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