But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. Luke 2:10-11
As I read the Scriptures, the ability to have joy is a gift. We may not always be “happy” with our circumstances, but we can have joy. Joy is a condition of our heart beyond the situations life may bring. It was “good news of great joy” the angels announced at the birth of Christ.
For many, however, living in the reality of joy at Christmas is harder than other times of the year. Memories of loved ones, financial struggles, health issues, and relationship woes often make for a very difficult celebration. And have you spent much time watching the news recently? It’s enough to depress anyone.
Do you ever wonder why everyone else seems to find it, but you’ve been left out when it comes to “good news of great joy”?
How do we find the joy of Christmas?
Here are five suggestions to great joy at Christmas:
Lower expectations of others
We falsely expect others to respond as we want them to respond – or think we would. It could be the way they do not react the way we expect of them to our gift as we felt when we bought it for them. We thought they’d remember us and they didn’t. Or, we sent a card – they didn’t. Maybe we worked hard to to be nice – and still they weren’t so nice.
We shouldn’t hold others to an expectation we set for them.
People, even the best of people, will disappoint us. And people are different from us. We aren’t responsible for the reactions of others. Instead, we are only responsible for our actions. We’ve been called to love others – and, that call doesn’t come with a list of stipulations for others to meet before we love them.
Increase your investment in others
If we aren’t careful, Christmas can become so commercialized, even within our own families, we unintentionally become selfish towards others.
Something supernatural happens when we share with people. Giving has an intrinsic value, which can’t be duplicated in any other way.
By the way, I believe this includes extending grace, as it was given to us – this includes granting forgiveness to those who disappointed us.
Giving frees our heart of selfishness and self-centered tendencies we all have at times. And Jesus said we give with one hand without the other hand knowing we gave. (paraphrase). So, we give expecting nothing in return. We give simply to be a blessing – and in turn we receive the blessing.
Examine your life and address known sin
We can’t experience complete joy with a holy God if we are living contrary to His desires for your life. Where does your life need a realignment with God’s purposes and plan for you? Chances are good you already know. Is it an unforgiving spirit? Are you holding on to anger? Do you have continued, repetitive sin in your life?
Christmas is a great time to make new commitments, and re-dedicate our life to Christ. Then you have a whole year to strive in this area of personal growth. Could a revival of soul be what’s missing for you to have a merrier Christmas?
Change your perspective
Choosing to be joyful is not based on circumstances, but often comes by perspective. Where we stand always determines what we see. Stand in pity or resentment and we will see the world in bitterness and disappointment. But stand in faith and we will see the world from a more positive viewpoint. We will see hope and possibilities.
The Apostle Paul wrote one of his most joy-filled letters – Philippians- while chained in a jail cell. (Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:8)
The fact is – joy is a gift – not based on what we have done or could do, but on God’s amazing grace towards us. It’s based on the hope of the righteous, not the reality of the moment.
Because of who God is and our relationship with Him we can choose joy, even in the midst of life’s struggles. And then choose joy again. Then gain. And then again.
Set your eyes on the prize
If you’re struggling to find joy in life, set your eyes on Jesus – the author and perfecter of your faith. (If indeed He is your Savior – if not choose His grace by faith now.) Set your sight on the glory to be revealed through your trials and circumstances. (Hebrews 12:2, Romans 8:18)
God will write the final chapter of your story – and He’s not finished yet! You can trust Him. Look again at the manger – Jesus, the One who existed before time began, set the stars in place, lowered Himself in the form of a baby and was placed on a feeding trough, so He may give us access (through the Cross and resurrection) to a Holy God! I can find joy in this fact! Can you?