Joy to the world, peace on earth, ’tis the season to be jolly, goodwill to men …… this is the time of year that we hear these lines sung on our radio stations and piped into stores, malls and restaurants, add them to our playlists, read them on the cards we send and receive …. But do we really hear them? Do we really experience joy, peace and goodwill? Are we jolly?
I confess, I have been struggling lately to experience joy and peace. Somewhere in myself, I know how ridiculous it is; I know I have a lot to be grateful for. After all, we are on the tail end of the ‘season of thankfulness’. I am thankful for more than I can list. Why, then, am I not the epitome of jolly? Well, God is faithful and when I ask, He tells me. His answer – He IS the answer. Isn’t that how we justify this celebration we call Christmas? “Jesus is the Reason for the Season”. And still we miss it. Somewhere, the joy has been threatened by the stress of the holidays: decorating, shopping, cooking, entertaining, rushing, spending, cleaning …… All we want is a Silent Night, Holy Night but we end up with Bob Rivers’ “12 Pains of Christmas”.
Jesus was not sent here so that we could have a holiday. He was not sent here so we could have a reason for a season. 1 John 4:9-10 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Jesus was sent to be our Savior, among other things, ALL THE TIME. Every season. Every month. Every week. Every day. Every hour. Every moment.
Like many people, I have been a big fan of the Christmas season for a lot of years. Most of my life, though, I was more a fan of the trappings and traditions of the world’s celebration. Don’t get me wrong, I knew ‘Jesus was the Reason’ – I grew up in church and took part in many ‘religious’ Christmas activities. Finally, several years ago, I began to sort it all out. I began to question the reason for the traditions of the season. Which of these, if any, had to do with Jesus and His purpose? In my quest for balance, the pendulum of my process swung all the way to the other side. For a couple of years, I didn’t decorate for Christmas. That’s right – no tree, no garland, no ribbons – nothing. I didn’t stop celebrating Jesus, I just didn’t participate in the semantics of the worldly celebrations. Since then, my pendulum has settled more toward the middle. We are choosing to celebrate in ways that our family can honor the spirit of the season and keep our focus on the reason.
Through that process, I began to listen – really listen – to the words in the carols. Have you ever really listened to the words in the carols? For instance, “Joy To The World” …..
‘Joy to the world, the Lord is come’ … Simple and straighforward, right? That is the simple message of the gospel.
‘Let earth receive her King’ … That one caused me to pause. Have we received our King? Have we received Him as King?
‘Let every heart prepare Him room’ … I think it’s safe to say, every heart has not.
‘And heaven and nature sing’ … Luke 19:37-40 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” Heaven and nature will praise Him, even when we do not.
So if Christmas is about celebrating the King, why does it steal our joy so easily? John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Our joy and our peace are often stolen by the cares of the world. Sometimes they are not stolen – sometimes we give them away. I know for me, when I am focused on the world instead of the Word, I am forfeiting the joy and peace that Jesus came to impart. John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
I mentioned a few paragraphs ago that I have been lacking in joy and peace. I am happy to report that it is not the holiday happenings that are the source of my unrest these days, at least for this year. No, it is the other events and circumstances of the world that are bringing me down. Politics, civil unrest, world-wide terrorism, deadly viruses, sex/slave trafficking, school shootings – the list could go on. There is no shortage of concerns threatening the global population. It is not that I am one that lives in fear. It is the broken hearts that break my heart. Wounded people wound people. It is devastating to me to think about the broken hearts that are at the catalyst for the majority of the wrongs. I get weighed down with concerns for humanity in general. I have let my heart be troubled. My focus has been on the world, not on the Savior – on the problem, not on the solution.
Knowing that the world is a hard place to be, Jesus, before He went to the cross, prayed to our Father on our behalf. John 17:13-14 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.”
Not only has He recently reminded me that He is the source for joy and peace, I was reassured even more a few days ago when this passage was brought to my attention. Isaiah 9:7 Of the increase of His government and of peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from the [latter] time forth, even forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. (AMP) His peace and His kingdom will increase.
I won’t pretend to have a formula for instant joy and peace. I don’t have a 12-step program to put the Merry in your Christmas and the Happy in your Holidays. Your journey will most likely have a different map than mine. I can tell you where to start. Start with the Lord. Psalm 55:22 Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.
Where is your focus during this season? Is this a lifestyle focus or a seasonal focus? What can you surround yourself with to refocus you when you are distracted by the world?