When we look at the image to the left, do we wonder if someone is asking God, “Where are you?” Or perhaps God is asking us, “Where are you?” I think of the latter for myself and others. Where are you this Christmas season? Are you wondering if anything has meaning? Still searching for joy? Here is a thought: Jesus says to the faithful steward of the gifts given to him in life, “Well done good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your master.” Matthew 25:23. Christmas becomes God’s invitation to move from where we are to a new place. Joy is not a feeling or a desire. It is a destination, a place for those who choose to travel with God through the Christmas story. The invitation begins. God announces, “I have come to be the savior of the world.” Those who choose to recognize that they need a savior begin the journey. Then He offers reassurance, “do not be afraid.” Though the journey is along a rocky road, I am here. And for the wisest of all, they bring gifts to begin the journey. Knowing full well the journey is difficult, they have the sense to bring sacrificial gifts to the originator of life. And some few will run around like crazy shepherds yelling to all who will hear, “good news! Good news! The savior has been born.” Joy is a journey to a place. It begins with faithful stewardship of the gifts given us by the creator. Christmas is really not about the gifts we get from one another or the ones we give. Remember the real gift is our faith in Jesus as the originator of our joy. See you Sunday!
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1: 2-4. It is hard to imagine a scenario in life when I would look at a trial with pure joy. More often I might have a bit of disdain in my heart. Yet the greatest gift we have been given is our faith. Faith allows us to believe in what we cannot see and do not need to prove. So I can believe that God intends all things to work according to my favor. Not just some things but all things. Christmas should remind us above all else that God has no intention to give up on us. He will just keep coming. Christmas is all about Jesus coming, not to teach us we can avoid trials, but to show us how to live through them. If we choose to believe that trials have purpose, then we get to see that they have purpose. If we believe trials are random acts of maliciousness, then our own purpose is darkened. Life without Godly purpose must be ever so difficult. No meaning behind the hard stuff. That is a tough way to live. I choose Christmas to be a time to remind me God works on purpose, through all things in my life. Thank you God.
TROUBLE! Few people appreciate the word or the reality behind the word. “Am I in trouble?” Life is filled with trouble! WE all have trouble. I am pretty sure I am right about that. A joy filled life, then cannot be a trouble free life, or none of us would attain it. Joy has more to do with the power behind us, the wind beneath us, the strength within us. A joy filled life is a life lived according to God’s purpose, knowing that God is both before and after the trouble of today, leading into greener pastures. Joy is intimately connected to trust. If our relationship with God is such that we have come to trust Him, then trouble takes on a whole different perspective. We see it for what it really is, temporary. Our relationship is permanent, so the temporary troubles do not weaken our relationship. They strengthen it. This is JOY!
We begin a new series, “Joy Story” in church this week and will of course look at the greatest joy story of all, Christmas. It is appropriate to begin with words from the story. “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11 So the Angels know that Christmas is a joy story. What about America? What about our neighbors? What happens when people are told the savior is born. I would think today is about the same as Bethlehem or Judea in the first century. Some get upset with the thought that they even need a savior, like Herod. He even tries to kill the child thinking him a threat. That happens nearly every day. People still try to kill Jesus. Kids cannot wear Jesus shirts to school for fear of offending. Public places have to be Jesusless and Christmas is little more than snowmen and pies and toys. Even when believers try to help by saying, “This is GOOD NEWS.” Few want to listen. And they blame the Storyteller for the problem. As if we are all better off without the Storyteller. But what if THE Joy Story is the only source of real joy? Without Jesus, lives are lived out in “quiet desperation,” with only an occasional glimpse of happiness that we mistake for JOY. See you Sunday!