The Joy of Christmas

Luke 2: 8-14


The predominant theme of Christmas is Joy.  It permeates through the entire story.  From the joy of Zechariah who is told he will have a son named John the Baptist who will be the forerunner of the Messiah.  From the joy of a virgin named Mary who is told she will be the bearer of the messiah.  From the joy of Joseph who watched the miracle of birth. On that first Christmas we find the story of the joy of the shepherds in Luke 2: 8-14

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (NIV)

But for many, it is also the most frenzied time of the year.  In the midst of buying presents, going to parties, sending cards, visiting family members, the joy is drained from Christmas.  Instead of peace and joy we feel like we are on a treadmill of rushed activities.  Do you ever feel a little harried this time of year?  In the midst of Christmas chaos, how can we find peace and joy?

I.  Christmas joy is enhanced by memories.

Isn’t memory a wonderful thing?  It helps us find our car keys.  Can you imagine going to work tomorrow and forgetting everything you knew about you job and having to relearn everything again?  Or even worse going home today and looking at your spouse and saying who are you?  We all know individuals who have lost their memory due to a disease and it is a particularly painful thing to watch.  God has given us a tremendous gift – memory.  The accumulation of pleasant memories brings great joy into our lives. 

Few seasons trigger the memories like Christmas.  Having long forgotten many of the events of our lives, most everyone can look back to those childhood days of Christmas glee.  For each family the type of memories are different.  Almost every family has certain Christmas traditions that are followed year after year.  As a child we would make the annual trip to Grandma’s on Christmas day and gather with aunts, cousins, and in laws and share laughs, a meal and lots of jokes on each other.  There would always be the joke gifts under the tree:  running shorts to my 85 year old grandma, used items to the cousins and big boxes wrapped inside of one another with nothing the final box. 

One year my cousin Gary bought one of the first 8 mm movie cameras. – to make it seeable there was a bar with big spotlights on the end that you attached and when you turned it on it was like the sun came out – saw black for two minutes. 

Later as the kids came, we assembled at my brothers for lots of jokes, gifts, food, and merriment.  When we get together we still recall some of those experiences.

For some Christmas eve services that gladden the heart; for others family reunions.  We weren’t a singing family but I would guess many of you gathered around a piano and sang the carols.  For some it was the arrival of Santa on Christmas morning or the trek to see the lights or special meals abundant in calories.  Christmas should be filled with happy memories.  What are your memories?

One memory that all of us share. It is the most important memory of all. For the believer, our memories center on the birth of Jesus as the most joyous time of the year.

For some your memories aren’t so good.  Our joy is robbed by wounds from the past.  Charles Dickens classic – A Christmas Carol tells the story of Scrooge – the miserly owner whose refrain as Bah Humbug – Christmas is a waste of time and money,  In a revealing flashback, we see Scrooge at a boarding school as a kid.  All of the other kids were going home for Christmas but he stayed because his parents didn’t want him to come home.  It was lonely and his friends became characters in books to ease his pain. People in pain want to inflict it on others.

For some this season reopens those festering moments of pain in your past.  Some of you may be looking at me and saying:  How can I have joy if I have painful memories? In that case:

II.  Christmas is enhanced by forgiveness

Some of you have deep wounds of family squabbles – internal strife – tension over personal issues.  There are lots of joy robbers at Christmas – feelings of dread and heartache that seemed to come to the surface during this time of year. 

How can we sing joy to the world and mean it?  How can we say merry Christmas with sincerity? 

Story of Ron Jackson

for those of you scarred by past painful memories, this is a good time of year to say:  I forgive you. For many they refuse to forgive because it doing so they think it gives the perpetrator the message that it was ok what they did. You have a desire for them to hurt just as much as you do.  It is not a matter of fairness –it is a matter of grace. unforgiveness usually doesn’t affect the one who hurt you nearly as much as it does you.  When you forgive, It enables you to move forward and releases the sense of hatred, anger and resentment.  

It takes effort but you can overcome the wounds of the past.  For some of you, your pain is different.  You have lost a loved on over the past year and Christmas reminds you of all the great celebrations and events that you shared together.  How can I have joy?  Although it is difficult, you have to establish some new memories, new traditions, some new times of joy not to replace those old memories but to create some new ones to add to your life’s story. It takes effort to establish new traditions but it’s worth it.

III.  Christmas joy is enhanced by perspective

Over the past few years, there has been a gradual shift away from Christmas to the holidays.  You have probably heard or seen some things that are happening in that regard.  The word’s Merry Christmas are replaced by happy holidays.  How would you feel if everyone was celebrating your birthday but weren’t allow to say your name?  Schools aren’t allowed to sing Christmas carols. 

Advertising emphasizes the gifts that everyone has to have this year.  It is going to take effort to keep our nation from turning Christmas into a winter holiday.

We should never be obnoxious or demeaning but I want to encourage you to take a stand.  Be a witness for Jesus. 

We have to put it into perspective.  Christmas is not about a winter vacation; it is the celebration of the birth of Jesus.  Christmas is not about what you get; it’s about what you give.  Put it into proper perspective.  There will be many people this year who will give gifts to everyone except for the one whose birthday we are celebrating.  A part of your giving this year should be a gift to Jesus as well.

As a society we are trying to exchange the joy of Christmas for temporary pleasure.  There is a big difference.  Most people want joy – yet while they want joy they don’t know how to get it so they pursue happiness instead.  It is a matter of perspective.

Happiness is temporary          joy is eternal

Happiness  is an external emotion   joy is an internal satisfaction

Happiness comes and goes with circumstances

Joy is an ever increasing byproduct of a life well lived.

IV.  Christmas joy is enhanced by relationships

There is a little chorus I used to sing as a child in church.  If you want joy, real joy, wonderful joy, let Jesus come into your life.  That is the good news of Christmas.  We centered our joy in relationships not products or events or circumstances but in relationships.

The shepherds in this story were poor itinerant wanderers but they had joy.  They were scratching out a living in a difficult environment but they had joy.  When they heard the news they responded with great joy glorifying God in the highest. 

The joy of Christmas is not centered around gift giving although that is a nice thing; it is not centered around a day off work or a week off school even though that is a nice thing – it is centered on relationships?  Do you know what people want most at Christmas – to be with their family. . . the people they love – with friends that they care about – to laugh and sing and joke and worship with those who are meaningful to them.  Relationships!!!  The stuff of life.

Even if those relationships in your life are not abundant or where they should be; the greatest relationship is the one you can have with Jesus Christ as your Savior. 

Things may not always be perfect but he says:  I will not leave you nor forsake you.

My heart may ache over the loss of a loved one but Jesus says there will be a great reunion one day with those who believe so I can have joy.

My family wasn’t the greatest but Jesus says I will be a friend that will stick closer than a brother.

My health may not be the best and I have a lot of pain but one day all my pain will dissolve in the light of his glorious face so I can have joy.

My finances are not up to par but I have a heavenly father who knows my needs and cares about me so I can have joy.

My past is pretty messy but Jesus has forgiven me of all my sins so I can have joy.

Many people have the attitude that once I get my life straightened out, I can have joy; once all my troubles are over I can have joy; once I retire I can have joy.  

You can’t wait on joy.  You have to seize it, embrace it, and allow it to change your attitude.

You want joy this Christmas.  Remember those great memories and then add to them some new ones.  Have a heart of forgiveness for those who have hurt you and move on with your life.  Put it into perspective and establish a relationship with Jesus Christ at the center of your life.