Reclaiming the JOY of Christmas

23 Dec

As I have so many times before, I arose this Sunday morning and headed to church with my Christmas message prayed over, prepared, and ready to go.  However, this year the Sunday before Christmas was different for me.  In the early years of my ministry, I walked with families through tremendous pain and difficulty during the Christmas season. My heart was touched and I truly cared, however, I was able to minister from a place of safety because everything was like I wanted it in my own life.  I would pray with someone experiencing “the first Christmas without….” and then I would head to my own family Christmas and everyone was there. We had all of our people and all of our beloved Christmas traditions. Even after the death of my grandfather, Cecil Corbin, in 2000, our hearts broke the first time we had Christmas without him, but all of the traditions were intact. Every year, I would look at his picture on the wall of my grandparents house on Christmas Eve and I would miss him terribly, but everything and everyone else was still there.

As I drove to church this morning, I couldn’t help but think about how different Christmas 2018 is from all the others – and not in any way I would have chosen. I drove to church with much sadness today – and I’m the pastor!  Due to the declining health of some family members, several of our most beloved family Christmas traditions no longer happen.  In recent weeks, our family dealt with the critical illness and death of my mother-in-law, Peggy Mayes. We buried her on Saturday, December 15.  It’s been a tough and exhausting few weeks for everyone. On top of that, Becky and I were both very sick this week, and, while much better, I was still not 100% back to normal.  As I drove to Lakeside this morning, I was not in a place of joy.  All of these burdens and others rolled around in my mind.  No longer was I ministering from a place of safety with my own life exactly like I wanted it.  I would minister through tears, brokenness, fatigue, and grief.

This morning, the Lord reminded me of and blessed me with the truth of true joy.  The music was outstanding this morning and I was already uplifted by worship with my Lakeside church family. Then we moved into the famous Christmas song, “Joy to the World” and my mind immediately went to the angel’s announcement of Christ’s birth and the joy it brought…

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10–11, NASB95)

How many times had I preached on that passage?  Dozens.  Happiness comes and goes depending on what happens, but joy is found in Jesus.  Joy is an inside job.  We can choose joy even in the worst of times because Jesus is our joy.  The gospel is the most joyful message we can ever share with anyone.  The truth of scripture combined with the words of one of the greatest songs…

Joy to the world Joy to the world
Joy to the world, the Lord is come
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare Him room
And Heaven and nature sing
And Heaven and nature sing
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing
Joy to the world Joy to the world
Joy to the World, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy

The Lord encouraged and strengthened my heart in a matter of moments. By His grace, I talked with dozens of people at church today, led a wonderful couple in dedicating their little boy, sang and worshiped, brought a check and gave in the offering, preached the Word and the gospel, and then greeted guests and members after the service. It was all JOY.

I was reminded that the joy of Christmas was never really found in beloved traditions or happier circumstances – as great as those are!  The joy of Christmas has always been and always will be the JOY OF JESUS.  No matter how hard your Christmas may be, you can join me in reclaiming the joy of Christmas.  We can reclaim the joy of Christmas because the JOY OF JESUS has never changed and it has never left.

Repeat, repeat the sounding JOY!  Merry Christmas!

 

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