Devotion – God’s Gift of JOY
This Christmas season, while we work to decorate our homes, fill the closets with brightly-wrapped gifts, and remember to keep Jesus “the reason for the season”, I’ve been thinking a lot about God’s gifts to us.
James 1:17 tells us that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.” Specifically, the fruit of the Spirit of “Joy”, second only to Love itself, keeps coming to my mind. Looking in my bible’s concordance, I was startled to see literally hundreds of references to Joy, let alone joyfulness, rejoicing, gladness, et cetera.
So I started with the beginning – that is, Jesus’ birth! In the gospel of Luke, the angel Gabriel pays Mary a visit to inform her that the Holy Spirit would come upon her, and that the power of the Most High would overshadow her. She would then bear a son whose name was Jesus, and He would be called the Son of the Most High. Mary told her cousin Elizabeth, prior to Jesus’ birth, “My soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savior!” Elizabeth verified the joyfulness of the event to come when she said “As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb (who would grow up to be John the Baptist) leaped for joy!”
When the glory of the Lord shone round about the shepherds in the field on the night Jesus was born, an angel of the Lord appeared with these words: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people! Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you: He is Christ the Lord!”
In Philippians, writer Paul exhorts us to “Rejoice in the Lord always!” and gives us some hints on how to keep that spirit of Joy when he continues by telling us to bring our requests and petitions to the God, “and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”
Psalms and Proverbs are jam-packed with joy, praise, exultation, and merriness of heart. In 1 Thessalonians, we are instructed, flat-out, to “Be joyful always.” Obviously, our being filled with God’s joy matters to God. And He has given us His Son on that Christmas morning so that we may have an example of how we are to live our own lives.
In Bruce Marchiano’s book In The Footsteps of Jesus, he writes: “Yes, Jesus smiled; yes, Jesus laughed. Jesus smiled wider and laughed heartier than any human being who has ever walked the planet. He radiated good cheer. The real Jesus was a man of such merriment, such gladness of heart, such freedom and openness, that He proved irresistible. He became known through Galilee for His genuine strength, the sparkle in His eyes, the spring in His gait, the heartiness of His laugh, the genuineness of His touch; His passion, playfulness, excitement, and vitality: His JOY! He made a dazzling display of love. He set hearts afire. He was an elated, triumphant man with an incredible quality of life.”
Sherwood Wirt writes: “The fact is that joy is an attribute of God Himself. It brings with it pleasure, gladness, and delight. Joy radiates animation, sparkle, and buoyancy. It is more than fun, yet it has fun. Joy has a clean tang and bite to it, the exhilaration of mountain air. It blows away the dustiness of our days with a fresh breeze, and makes life more carefree.
I think that there must be a quality of forgetting ourselves in God’s Joy. It must be focusing on, instead of our own frailties, failings, and frustrations, God’s triumphant love that He sent us in the form of His Own Son. It is in knowing that He is in control, no matter what the circumstances of our lives entail. Sometimes it is easier to tone things down, to use humor and sarcasm and a more serious demeanor as some sort of armor against the world… maybe we should be more willing to let His Joy shine forth from us? There will always be problems in life… crises, frustrations, worries and fears and even very real pain. But every Christmas morning, we remember the gift – He came that our Joy may be full! And He said “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” He came, He said, that our joy may be complete.
What would our own lives be like if we opened God’s gift of Joy? How would the power of Joy affect our every day, our relationships, and our attitudes? The world forgets about Joy, and focuses on temporary states like happiness and satisfaction. But maybe, this Christmas, our gift to our selves, to our children and families, to our friends, and even to the world itself might be our own Joy… our secret strength of spirit, a never-ending source of Love’s very real power in our lives.
Lord, thank You for this coming Christmas season, when we can be reminded of Your gift of Your Son, and also of Your gift of Joy. Help us to find our strength in Your Joy and Your presence.