The joy is palpable this time of year, is it not? It seems that all of Western culture celebrates with joy – even though they don’t know what it is that they celebrate.
All they know is that in December – there is an unseen reason for music … for merry-making … for gathering … and for giving … that happens at no other time of year.
I’d like to share with you today why Christmas is such a season of extreme yet unidentified joy.
Let’s dig into the Christmas story together and look at three times where the word “joy”was used to describe what was happening historically.
Believe me – you are going to LOVE this!
And let me just quickly say – if you have had a difficult year – you are still going to love this!
The joy of Christmas is especially for those of you whose worlds have been ruined by circumstantial pain and situational letdown … so read on!
Elizabeth was basking in the miracle of a surprise pregnancy even though she was well passed the age of childbearing. When Elizabeth was in her sixth month, Mary, her much younger relative, arrived at her house. A heavenly messenger had just informed Mary that she had been chosen to carry the Savior of the world.
When Mary entered the home of Zacharias and Elizabeth, the baby boy within the womb of Elizabeth, jumped for joy!
The instant that John, although unborn, sensed that he was in the presence of Jesus the Messiah, he began to leap for joy!
“In His presence is fullness of joy!” – Psalm 16:11
There is only one possible response to the presence of the Lord and that is joy – even babies know that!
Elizabeth exclaimed to Mary that this was no soft little nudging that she felt from the baby within but that it was a gargantuan leap! John was exploding with joy at being in the presence of Jesus!
The word that Elizabeth used to describe the movement of the baby within her womb is the Greek word “skirtao”.
The word “skirtao” is used only one other place in the New Testament.
“Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for (skirtao) for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets.” –Luke 6:22-23
You can, my friend, leap for joy when your life has fallen utterly and completely apart.
When we have been vilified and rejected by people and when we have been victimized by unfair circumstances, that is the time that we are commanded by Jesus to skirtao!! To leap for joy!
In His presence is the only place that you will ever experience true and complete joy this Christmas season.
Are you ready for the second instance of joy in the Bible? Let’s do this!
Shepherds were dirty, uneducated men with grime under their fingernails and sludge in their brains.
There were a group of these shepherds one night, huddled around a fire in the inky, black of night. These muddy specimens of humanity were cold and shivering while trying to stay awake.
Shepherds were a hopeless crew of men with nothing to look forward to - they knew that nothing about their lives would ever change. Life can become quickly pointless if you are a man who lives with sheep drool on his clothes and sheep dung between his toes.
When the night couldn’t get any blacker and the sheep couldn’t get any more cantankerous, suddenly, in an instant of time, something so miraculous happened that life would never again be the same for these men.
And the miracle of it all is that life will never be the same for you or for me as well.
Unexpectedly, heaven exploded into their small, cold and dark world.
The song of the angels burst forth into the war zone of earth and proclaimed the joy of heaven into the hopeless and meaningless existence of the shepherds.
Stars were falling and bursting in rare and glorious colors while the heavens opened and a majestic angel choir began to sing a mighty symphony that can still be heard today!
Jesus invaded this dark, cold world with heaven’s joy and it is still His gift to you today. His presence in your life makes shepherds dance and angels sing.
Your heart can become an explosion of joy because of the birth of a Baby over 2,000 years ago.
And what was the song that the angels sang that dark night?
“And behold, we bring you good news of great joywhich shall be to 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
The first word that the angels used to describe the birth of Jesus Christ was the word “joy”and I believe that it should be the first word used to describe you as well!
Joy is the birthmark of a Christian because when you accept Jesus into your heart you are branded for life with His joy.
You have become a vessel of His presence where there is always fullness of joy.
When the angels sang that night, they were singing to those of you with the drool of life upon your heart and the dung of circumstances in your soul.
The symphony of heaven ricochets through the ages and has as its focused destination your cold and lonely existence. Joy truly has come to your world and nothing will ever be the same again!
And now – for the grand finale of joy in the Christmas story … let’s peek in on those wise men!
The star led the Magi to the Light of the World!
When the magnificent star stopped the Magi in their wealthy tracks, the Bible says that these learned men, “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy”.
And what a celebration began that night!
Only 6 words: “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” yet what richness their brevity holds. These 6 simple words are some of the most expressive words in all of Scripture.
Now – just like you savor your Christmas dinner morsel by morsel – we are going to savor the response of the wise men as well. We are going to chew on their response to Jesus – and enjoy with them the flavors and delights that He brings to our lives.
“Rejoiced” is translated as “let the hope of future blessedness give you joy!
This word communicates to all of us, from every generation and at every moment in all of recorded history, that because of the Baby born in the manger, we can look ahead not with dread and worry but with hope and expectation.
“Exceedingly”is defined as “greatly” or even “violently” or vehemently.
These first century professorial types did not just quietly bow down with their scholarly hands clasped in front of their wise faces. The joy that they experienced in the presence of Jesus was an explosion of joy that knocked their mortarboards off their wizened heads!
The joy of Jesus rocked their academic world! These men were jumping up and down in the presence of the Baby Boy King. These brilliant men were participating in the John-jump!
The Magi were whooping and hollering because after years of study, after decades of hitting dead-ends as to the meaning of life, after a lifetime of frustrating nothingness, they had found the Creator of this miraculous universe. They had at long last discovered the Answer to all of their unanswerable questions and they had now been able to discern the wisdom of the Ages in a toddler’s sweet babble.
These erudite men were participating in a violent explosion of joy!
The joy that Jesus delivers into your life should indeed shake some things up a bit!
“Great” in this context means “with great effort of the affections and emotions of the mind”.
It is significant that this particular definition of the word “great” includes the word for “mind”. The Magi were men of scrolls and cerebral intensity; at the moment this star stopped in the presence of Jesus, all that they had ever learned or studied paled in comparison to this one momentous event.
And finally, but far from least in meaning, the word “joy”is defined as “the blessedness that the Lord enjoys”. When these pedantic men discovered the location of the Baby Boy, they also tapped into the mother lode of joy!
They hit a vein so rich and generous in joy that it changed every detail, both large and small, concerning their impressive lives.
Every blessing that the Lord has ... the Magi had … and you now have ... because of Christmas!
Joy has certainly come to your world!
Thanks for listening to my heart this week. As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me. And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!