December 19, 2018

Joy to the World

Gary Thomas — 

“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…’” Luke 2:10

Want to know the absolutely best present you could give your spouse or family for Christmas this year?

You won’t find it on the ubiquitous “12 Best Christmas Gifts for Wives” or “Ten Gifts Your Husband Will Really Love” Internet lists that circulate this time of year.

The best gift you can give to each other and your children is a heart filled with Christ-inspired joy.

In a Christmas Day sermon, Martin Luther proclaimed, “Whoever preaches [Christ] rightly, preaches the Gospel of pure joy.”

Charles Spurgeon preached for the heart, which is why he told his congregation, “I like to hear of overwhelming joy in the hearts of those who are God’s saints.”

Some (seriously misguided) think that the apostle Paul preached an almost oppressive holiness, but if you take his letters at face value, you read of a man who is all but obsessed with joy:

Rather than define Christianity as legalistic rules, Paul said, “The Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 14:17)

He prayed for the Romans, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace…” (Romans 15:13).

He tells the Philippians he doesn’t want to die yet so that he can continue to grow “your progress and joy in the faith.” (1:25)

I could go on and on, but I think the above makes the case that “joy” isn’t an option for a healthy believer. It should, in fact, be a defining characteristic of who we are.

What if you allowed Christmas to “jump start” your family’s embrace of joy this season? More important than stockings above the fireplace, or whether you have a real or artificial tree, presents spilling out underneath, gingerbread houses or candy canes, are two parents who have an unusual amount of joy in their hearts.

Wouldn’t that be the best Christmas tradition you could imagine? Just think how you’d feel if in twenty years, when your kids shared their Christmas memories, the one they all agreed on was, “Our home was such a joyful place during Christmas time.”

Indeed, if we’re not giving our kids a joy-filled home, we’re not giving them a truly Christian home. If we’re not giving them a day that showcases joy, we’re not giving them a truly Christian Christmas.

Ask yourselves, what will most serve our family’s joy this year?

One thing to consider is reminding each other of a key message of Christmas: our need and God’s provision for our sin by sending His Son. There can be no joy when we live under condemnation. Do our kids know the freedom offered to us by Christ? Have they received it? (This is the perfect time for family evangelism.)

Joy is also preserved when we refuse to let the lesser drown out the greater. Let’s be more concerned that our kids are mindful of Christ and His story when we take them to church rather than whether their hair is a bit mussed or their matching outfits don’t look quite right. You might be unemployed, but in Christ you are spiritually rich. You might have lost a loved one, but in Christ you have the hope of heaven.

Finally, consider cutting back on your schedule. It’s hard to know joy if we’re tired and run ragged. I’m serious, moms—your kids may be far better served if you start taking naps and buy a few less presents or hang a few less decorations. Nothing so gloriously colors Christmas like a Christian woman filled with Christian joy.

This may sound harsh, but I believe it to be true: if Christian homes are not bastions of joy on Christmas day, we’ve failed the holiday. Tragedies and disappointments can temporarily steal our smiles, but they must never rob us of joy. Especially on Christmas, we remember that God sent the Christ child just when and where He was needed most—and He’s not going to hold out on Christ’s provision during our current need. In the midst of sorrow, there can be a deep undercurrent of assurance and satisfaction that, in the light of eternity, every Christian always has a reason to hope, even in the face of pain.

You can celebrate Christmas without presents (many have). You can celebrate Christmas without turkey (vegans do it all the time) and you can even celebrate Christmas in Texas without watching football. But celebrating Christmas without joy?

For a Christian, that just doesn’t make sense.

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10 responses to Joy to the World

  1. Rafael De Castro December 25, 2018 at 6:25 am

    Thank you Gary for making it possible to give the best gift I have given my wife and children this Christmas, a new me after reading your books Sacred Marriage and Sacred Parenting.

  2. Joy doesn’t mean happiness & laughter all the time. Joy looks different for everyone. Living with a spouse with Depression & Anxiety & Alcoholism, finding joy is a daily struggle. We have lots to be thankful for, but not much to laugh about.

  3. Yes Amen! So many joy less Christian’s who never smile, worship and listen to sermon with arms crossed and looking like they are at a funeral? I always look for the Joy of the Lord at a church.

  4. I had to have a tooth implant yesterday and took medication to sleep, when I awoke I realized I felt so wonderfully relaxed because I hadn’t worried about all the things I hadn’t done and spent time hunting for my lost Card list!!
    Thank you, I’ve taken notes on all the joy verses you wrote of, my hearts goal is to let Christ’s love shine from our home not that everything is in perfect order!
    More Lord Jesus, less self,

  5. Love it Gary!

    Why do I hurt so bad this year!!
    We were flooded twice in 17 mos.But that we can replace!! We sold that home and still cleaning up Dust from H.harvey! Lol…
    2 weeks after Hurricane Harvey, I got the worst call a mother ever wanted to hear!
    Yes my 27 yr old youngest daughter did an accidental overdose September 6, 2017.
    Leaving her 4 yr old and her 6 yr old and her husband behind as well as me and her sister’s!!
    I know God knew what he was doing that night!
    Because she was about to get in more trouble!
    She was a Surgical Technologist and a Sterilization..
    Bottom line I am hurting so much!!
    And I don’t understand why!! I am and have been getting help.. But this yrs been really bad on me!!
    Merry Christmas Gary
    I am a member of Second Baptist Church since 1995. I love my Church and my Bro. Ed.Young.
    And of course you and your sweet wife.
    God is lending us towards Foster/Adoption..
    Pray for us please?

    • What a year Shirley! On so many different fronts. I pray the knowledge of Christ’s birth and his provision will sustain you through some very difficult times. It’s good to know you’re getting some help. Years like the one you have had shouldn’t be borne alone.

  6. What a good word, Gary!

    Thank you for reminding Moms that taking a nap and getting the rest they need to be more joyful is not selfish but necessary. Dads might need the reminder that ignoring the latest DIY project for some rest and relaxation is in order as well.

    As a JOYFUL Christian, I’m often struck and grieved by how joyLESS the folks around me seem to be. Joy and Jesus go hand in hand, and it’s unreasonable as a Christian to be characterized by a sagging, lagging spirit, when we consider:

    God is for me!
    I am completely loved, forgiven, and accepted!
    I am headed for heaven!
    I am never alone, because His Spirit lives within me!
    I’m a conqueror because of Jesus!
    No weapon formed against me will prosper!
    I’m a daughter of the King!

    How can one not be filled with joy over these wonderful truths, and the multitude more found in scripture?