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The Emotions of Christmas: Joy

Joy seems to be a word that only Christians use. I really don’t come across it in too many other places than in Christian literature, or the bible.

I wonder if it is because it is an emotion that only God can give?

So if we are going to try to talk about it, maybe we should first try to define what it is?

I heard a lovely definition of Joy from a man by the name of John Piper:

Joy is a good feeling in the soul produced by the Holy Spirit as He causes us to see the beauty of Jesus in the Word and in His works.

Joy is from the Holy Spirit. Well, that checks out, Paul in his letter to the Galatians names it as one of the fruits of the Spirit.

“But the fruits of the spirit are love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

So Joy is something that can and hopefully will come from the Holy Spirit when we see the beauty of Jesus in his word and work.

Do we see the work and word of Jesus at Christmas?

It seems like it is hard to. We get so distracted! It is hard to hear a Christian carol these days among all the silly commercial Christmas songs.

Here is an example about how we get so distracted from Christmas by all the trappings around it. Tell me, what do you think would be the most famous secular Christmas song in the world? For those of you who need a hint it was the first song ever broadcast from space! Jingle bells! Now, sing the words in your head and tell me how many verses in you have to get before it mentions Christmas! Does anyone know the answer? It doesn’t mention Christmas at all! It is just about sledding, in winter! Something that happens at the same time of the year in the Northern Hemisphere! But not here.

It’s not even a Christmas song! It is an American winter song. But we have never thought to question it! We just assume that it must be about Christmas! Why would we sing that here, it’s not even about Christmas let alone about Jesus and the real Christmas. Things like this begin to see my joy levels dropping.

Distractions from the joy of Christmas: from the word and work of Christ. Tinsel, wrapping paper, Santa clauses and reindeer and icicles and sales events and turkeys and hams and prawns and trees and ridiculous led light displays (in a day and age where we are trying to conserve electricity.) I can guarantee there were no Led lights in the stable on that first Christmas. Those stupid paper crowns and lame jokes in the Christmas crackers, where did they come from, I don’t remember them in the Christmas story, but I often read the version in the gospel of Luke. Maybe they are in one the other ones? No?

Even in the church we get distracted from the word and work of Jesus Christ. We end up talking and signing about a donkey that isn’t even mentioned in the Christmas story, and we have given names to the wise men, where the bible doesn’t give them names, in fact it doesn’t even say how many there were. It doesn’t say there were three. I think we only guess three because there were three gifts, and we know that none of them would want to be “that guy” who shows up without anything. Hey mate, can you put my name on the card too, tell him it’s from both of us. I will pay you back later.

You see how distracted we get? So distracted. By so many details. Even the made-up ones.

And this is confession time for me: I often find it hard to feel the joy at Christmas. I do feel it in the end, every year. But only by a sheer act of will. I have to dig my heels in and work on it, perhaps it is the stubborn in me but I refuse to let all that other stuff rob me of the joy that is mine at Christmas. And I know that I need to concentrate on finding, reclaiming that joy.

Because I feel like I have this guy looking over my shoulder. (photo of the grinch)

I saw someone in town the other day who was wearing a patch that had the Grinch on it, and the Grinch was smiling. But what this person liked most about the patch was that even the grinches smile looks angry. It is a smile through clenched teeth. It is a joyless smile. It is the smile that he felt so many of us have to put on at Christmas. Hating everything about it, we still feel like we have to smile.

And this is what I am a little bit afraid of becoming at Christmas. Dr Seuss’s grinch. Where is the joy in those eyes? Is my heart like they say about the Grinch “two sizes too small?”

So where has my joy gone?

Where has your joy gone? Are you still feeling it?

And if this is the situation, that our joy is lost or even just hidden, then the question is “What do we have to do to get it back?”

Where do we go, where do we look?

Actually maybe those are not the right questions. I think perhaps I started them incorrectly.

You see the answer to the question isn't in a “where” or in a “what”.

What is the word that our question should be starting with?

It's a who.

No, not that who, (that's just my Dr Seuss joke for the day)

This Who: (Slide of Mary and Jesus)

If you cannot see, this Christmas, the beauty of Jesus in his Word and in His works, then I urge you to look down.

Look down into the manger.

Look down into the eyes of the baby born as God and man, as saviour and sacrifice, as Lord and lamb, redeemer and refugee, all to put the plan of God into place for you.

That is where joy is to be found.

Find him in his word.

Hear him in the questions of children asking what Christmas is all about, being baptised and coming to faith.

It is still happening.

John Piper said that joy is a good feeling in the soul produced by the Holy Spirit as He causes us to see the beauty of Jesus in the Word and in His works.

What does the Holy Spirit do? What have we always said? He helps us to understand and believe. He points to Jesus.

And that’s what Piper was saying. To give us joy the Holy Spirit helps us to see Jesus. To see him in his word, to see him in his work, to see him in his church.

And the funny thing about the work of the holy spirit, pointing us to Jesus: that’s our job too.

We all know people who are over the commercial Christmas but DON’T have a WHO to look to.

They need what we need. We need a reminder, they need to be told maybe for the first time.

Jesus Christ is the joy of Christmas. If you are not feeling it, look to him. Sing to him. Drop to your knees and pray to him. As the carol says: Joy to the world! Why? Because the Lord is come. And he is coming again soon.

Thanks be to God!


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