If there is a single word that describes what Christmas is all about, it’s the little word “joy.” Several of our favorite carols mention it, including “Joy to the world, the Lord is come,” Most people wish each other a “Merry Christmas.” Even those who don’t want to be too religious, proclaim “Happy Holidays.” Christmas is a time of joy.
But do you really feel joyful this Christmas? It’s not hard to feel joy when Christmas is going good. But it’s not always easy to feel joyful. Sometimes Christmas can be met with sadness and despair. Part of our problem is that we’ve got the wrong idea about joy. We tend to connect joy with happiness and think that joy depends on our circumstances. But like the kids song, we have the joy, joy, joy, joy ‘down in my heart.’ In spite of what’s going on we can have Christmas joy this year.
If this Christmas you just don’t feel very merry, I suggest that you think about the shepherds to get your merry back in your Merry Christmas. If you read the words in Luke 2:8-25, you will discover four things you can do that bring joy.
In the early history of Israel, many of God’s leaders were shepherds: Abel was the first to have this job, followed by Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and of course, David. God calls Himself a shepherd. By the time we come to the first century however, shepherding was not a respected profession. Shepherds made up the lowest class of people. They were often treated with contempt and mistrust and were often isolated from the rest of society. In fact, because of the nature of their work they were unable to attend religious services and considered ceremonially unclean.
They were not the type of people you would want to announce the birth of your child. And yet we find the worldwide expanse of the gospel message illustrated on that first Christmas night! The good news is for everybody… even lowly shepherds! even those who are messed up! Jesus came to bring joy to all people! Does it still thrill you when you hear about Jesus?
This is good news of great joy. The Greek word here for great is “mega” which means exceedingly, large, loud and mighty. It’s a superlative of greatest degree. It’s a Mega-Joy Message! This message is for “all people” but notice the word “you”. It’s for the whole world but it must also become deeply personal.
I’m not sure what it was really like for these rough men to gather around a feeding trough in a crude shelter made for animals to see a tiny baby. I don’t know what they might have thought as they filed in through the stable opening. But they came away from there, knowing that they had met a Savior, the hope of the world. And the angel of the Lord had called this baby Christ, the Lord.
These shepherds had just been in the presence of God, spoken to by a powerful angel of the Lord. They had received the good news to the fullest extent possible at that time. They believed and obeyed and encountered the Lord for themselves. Have you met the Lord?
We don’t read any more about these shepherds in the Bible, although I would imagine that some of them probably ended up among His followers 30 years later. When Jesus began to teach, preach, and heal the sick, some of these shepherds could very well have followed Him, remembering the night the angels appeared and put on the light show
They were so impacted by their encounter with the angel of the Lord and the message they had heard, and the baby they had visited, that they couldn’t keep it to themselves. They had to tell their friends and family about it.
When we receive the good news about Jesus, and begin to know the joy of salvation, the joy of being forgiven, that is a motivator for us to share what we’ve received with others. And as we share we find more joy as others come to know Him. Have you shared Jesus with others?
4 – Joy comes when you worship the Lord.
I’m pretty sure the shepherds didn’t sleep that night. They praised God and gave Him glory for noticing them and including them in the birth announcement of His Son.
Today, there is still a joy to be found that rises above the stress and disappointments of a so-called bad day. There is a joy that comes from hearing from the Lord, that He loved us enough to come the first time and die as the sacrifice for our sins. There is a joy that comes from encountering the Jesus when we call on Him in faith, asking Him to forgive us and include us in His family. This joy is something that wells up within us, that we will want to share with those around us! This joy overflows into praise and worship as we glorify the Lord and thank Him for giving us the greatest gift we could ever receive – life with Him that goes on forever!
“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people…. a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”
Is He your Savior? Have you received Him as your Lord? He is the promised Messiah, God made flesh who lived among men, and died at their hands, so that we could do life with Him forever. He wants to turn your tears into smiles, your sorrow into joy, your darkness into light, your failure into victory. Will you say Yes to Him?