What’s your favourite Christmas hymn? Is it ‘Silent Night’ or ‘Away in a manger’ – or could it possibly be ‘O Come all ye faithful’…as we acknowledge the mystery and mission of Jesus who entered our human existence, with little pomp and ceremony…a displaced person, far from his parents’ home. For me, I like ‘Joy to the world, the Lord has come – let earth receive her king, let every heart prepare him room.’ So here’s the first question, have you prepared room in your heart for Jesus this Christmas?
Last week I talked about some practical ways that we could keep the Christ in Christmas this year. How have you done? I chose to forgive someone as a gift to God – and I feel much better. Luke 6:37 says to forgive and you will be forgiven…it goes on to say the measure that you give to others is the measure that you get back. People often say that Christmas is about giving…but in focusing in on the giving gifts we often forget about the giver.
Do you remember your childhood when you were so excited about Christmas that couldn’t sleep? When Christmas came and you got to open your presents, do you remember the joy that you felt in receiving a special gift – or the joy that you received watching others as they were excited about the gift that you had given. Joy…it’s a little word with a BIG impact. When we are excited we celebrate the good thing that has brought us happiness – we rejoice.
What have we been given by God that worth getting excited about? Today’s passage in Zephaniah 3:14 starts off by reminding us to rejoice in God, no matter what our circumstances because God gift to us all is more than matched by any circumstances that we might be going through. Psalm 30:5 says that weeping and pain lasts the night, but joy comes in the morning. Like the Israelites of old, exiled from their homeland, God promises to give a hope and future to the faithful. However, often in the darkness of our distress, hope seems far away. Psalm 126:5 says ‘those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy’.
As we reflect on the hope that we have in Christ we are reminded that our joy is not based on circumstances, but in a relationship with God whose arrival into our lives gives us both a present and a future hope. However, many people in church lack the joy for life that should be characteristic of our confession of faith and desire to follow the example of Jesus. Nehemiah 8:10 says that ‘the joy of the Lord is your strength’…the Bible is full of references to joy and joyfulness, yet us church people are often so lacking in joy and enthusiasm for what God has done, is doing and will do, that we only perpetuate the perception of those outside that church is dull and boring.
This should be the furthest from the truth. We have so much to thankful for; so much to be grateful for; so much to celebrate; that we should be known for our infectious joy. So, let’s make this Christmas a real celebration of the Christ’s redemptive act in our lives…and pass on that unspeakable joy to those around us.