This is the one-hundred-thirty-third lesson in author and pastor Mel Lawrenz’ How to Live the Bible series. If you know someone or a group who would like to follow along on this journey through Scripture, they can get more info and sign up to receive these essays via email here.
As we now turn into December thoughts of Christmas are powerfully in our minds. But this year, things are different. With billions of people around the world having their lives affected by the COVID pandemic, we wonder if the joy of Christmas is affected. Certainly there are people who have lost their health or lost their loved ones or lost their jobs. This has been a difficult year. Christmas is not the same. Perhaps this is especially the time when the truth of Christmas—of God coming into our lives—is more important than ever.
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11
Great joy? Is it almost too much to hope for?
Where did all the Christmas joy go? How did things get so complicated? So rushed? So squeezed and cluttered? A nonstop buzz of Christmas lights and weary shoppers, boisterous television specials and pleading children. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can choose to step aside, step into a quieter moment, and read the angel’s words that came on the night that changed the world: “I bring you good news of great joy!”
It was just another night of work in the field for the shepherds, with a chill in the air and the soft bleating of their flocks. Another night of work, a night like thousands of nights before—even thousands of years before when the shepherd David was still a boy and stood watch in those same fields. Life hadn’t changed in a millennium. But on this night, everything changed.
When the angel appeared, bathed in a glorious light, these shepherd men and boys who were used to fending off wild beasts to protect their sheep were suddenly filled with terror. Were they convinced by the simple words: “I bring you good news of great joy”? Probably not. Joy would have to come later. They would need to see proof.
That’s the way it works with joy. Real joy never originates from within; it must come from without. Searching for joy within you is like searching for the ocean within a droplet of water. Perhaps this is why so many of us have a difficult time finding joy at Christmas. Bite into a Christmas cookie and you might enjoy it. Open a shiny package and you might delight in what you find inside. But joy itself—true and pure—is so much more than enjoyment.
Joy is the startling realization that God has claimed territory in this world. He has taken back what belongs to him. Every day we can remind ourselves of this revelation—reignite this joy again and again. Joy is a thirst that doesn’t want to be quenched; a hunger that knows it will go on and on. It’s a good thing to never get enough of God.
This “great joy”—God come into the world—is great because it’s everywhere. A joy “that will be for all the people” is here. Now. Let us delight in this tremendous news today.
Prayer for Today
Dear God, turn my fear into great joy.
[Adapted from Christmas Joy: A Devotional for Adults by Mel Lawrenz]
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Mel Lawrenz (@MelLawrenz) trains an international network of Christian leaders, ministry pioneers, and thought-leaders. He served as senior pastor of Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin, for ten years and now serves as Elmbrook’s teaching pastor. He has a PhD in the history of Christian thought and is on the adjunct faculty of Trinity International University. Mel’s many books include Spiritual Leadership Today: Having Deep Influence in Every Walk of Life (Zondervan, 2016). See more of Mel’s writing at WordWay.