Finding joy in the right place

Finding joy in the right place

You see the word “joy” all over the place this time of year. You have probably seen it on decorations, on greeting cards, and in supermarkets. You may well have sung carols which use the word liberally throughout. It is supposed to be the most joyful time of the year. And there are things that happen that might bring a sense of deep satisfaction, things like gathering with family, giving or receiving presents, or relaxing after a busy year. These are gifts from God that bring some measure of joy.

Yet if we only find joy in these kinds of things, we are no different from our friends and family members who don’t know anything about Jesus. Christians know something that brings a much deeper and more significant joy than anything else.

When the wise men from the East came to visit Jesus, and finally found the baby after a long search, this is what we are told of their reaction:

When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. (Matt. 2:10 ESV)

It doesn’t matter if you know any Greek or not, you can tell that this is quite an unusual way to put things. It would be enough to say that they “rejoiced” or perhaps that they “rejoiced exceedingly”. It is overkill to say, “they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy”. There are too many uses of the word “joy” there! It is like Matthew is trying to express to us how excited they were and how deeply they understood the significance of this baby. You cannot easily express that depth of joy in words.

This leads us to reflect on our own situation. Are you joyful about Jesus, this time of year and every time of year? Be honest with yourself. What gets you excited and makes you sing spontaneously? What grips your heart and makes you smile when it crosses your mind? I think we could answer that in lots of different ways, but the idea of Jesus is often not the first and most honest answer.

We feel the wonder of Jesus so deeply when we first come to know Him. We feel his love at key times. Yet often, if we have been Christian for many years, we don’t feel the same depth of joy that we once did. It is something we get used to. We can express the theology more clearly, to be sure, and we know Jesus died for our sins and meant we are adopted into God’s family. Yet we can lose the joy that we should feel.

How can we make sure that the joy we feel at Christmas is about Jesus? It helps to spend time reflecting on what God has done for us. Perhaps that is going to church to hear the gospel message and sing about it. Perhaps that is reading the nativity passages in the Bible, or a book like ‘The Biggest Story’ by Kevin DeYoung with your family. Perhaps it is simply about taking the time to thank God in prayer, always putting the gift of Jesus at the top of the list.

It is right for us to sing “Joy to the World”, but remember that the deepest joy is that the Lord has come, not in other good gifts God has given to us.