The Gift Of Joy - Spirituality - Religion

I am really a kid at heart. I love the sights and sounds of Christmas. In fact when I go home to visit my family in Richmond, one of the things we like to do as family is to load up in the car and go on the "tacky house tour". You know those are the houses that have everything in the yard from E.T. to Superman to Santa Claus. What other time of the year can you see such amazing sights and have the whole world drive up and down your street, tie up traffic for hours, and your neighbors still speak to you! Amazing! Christmas does seem to bring out the best in all of us. It is a season of joy and goodwill.

Yet, I am aware that for many, Christmas is not a joyful time. It is a sad time, a difficult and even lonely time. Statistics show that it is one of the most depressing and even violent times of the year. The truth is no amount of E.T.s, Santas on the lawn, turkey, or tinsel can ease the pain when you have lost a loved one or are going through a difficult experience in your life. There has got to be something more. What is it? Let me suggest to you that it is joy.

We too often get happiness and joy confused. Happiness is contingent upon circumstances or events and joy is something much deeper than that. When the angel of the Lord appeared to some very frightened shepherds, the news wasn't about happiness. It was news about joy. Joy can come even when things don't look great and times are hard. In fact, joy can even show up in the most unexpected times and places. That's what happened when the angel of the Lord spoke to the shepherds. The message of good news couldn't have come at a darker time in history. The economy of that day was burdened by welfare and heavy taxes. Moral decay abounded and even religious observances had become political.

Joy is something I believe God has wanted us to experience from the very first Christmas until now. Joy, His joy! Did you know that the word joy appears in the Bible 200 times? There is no doubt in my mind that joy is important to God. The Bible even declares that God Himself sings or rejoices over you and I. You see, I believe we are the objects of His joy. You and I are what He takes pleasure in and delights in.

You know when you love someone it's just hard to keep it to yourself. I have to say at Christmas time my husband is terrible about keeping secrets. When he is excited about his gift, he becomes just like a little kid. He can't wait to give it to me or to tell me what it is. I hardly ever make it to Christmas without opening my present because he gives it away literally. I always get it ahead! I believe in a real way that's what happened two thousand years ago. God could not contain His joy and delight over you and I another second. He had to shout from heaven that we were the object of His affection and joy!

Can you imagine what must have been going on in the heart of God before the angel made that announcement? The anticipation, the excitement! I can, almost in my mind's eye, see the Father peering over the portals of heaven so excited to share the news. He was about to give His very precious gift. It was not any gift, but His best gift, the gift of His Son to a hurting and dying world. "Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel, God with us."

Now I have to say, what can be better than that? Immanuel has come. God is with us! The creator of heaven and earth is with us! Immanuel, God with us in our darkness, confusion and pain. The One who would walk this journey before us and struggle with every pain and temptation. The One who knows our frailty and weaknesses has come not to condemn us but to light our way, to carry our burden, to give us a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, and to turn our sorrow and mourning into joy.

The prophet Isaiah said it so well, approximately 900 years before the birth of Christ. "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.... For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:2-6)

I hope this Christmas season you will be blessed with friends and family and all the special joys of the season, but even if you are alone or far away from home, may you hear once again the good news that the angel declared. "Behold, I bring you good news of great joy which shall be for all the people." It's good news of joy because Immanuel has come. God with us! In my mind, it really doesn't get much better than that!

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