Featured guest post by Lori Wagner
It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!
I love Christmas—all the sights, sounds and smells that make the holiday cheery and bright. I even love the shopping, though I rarely darken the doors of the local malls the rest of the year. Why? When else can you walk into a department store and hear songs about our wonderful God with us, Emmanuel, Jesus Christ the Lord?
In the grocery or in the middle of Walmart, glorious hymns and silly seasonal songs mingle with a message that declares joy to the world! The Lord is come! With that in mind, I don’t let aloof cashiers, commercialism or ridiculous renegade reindeer songs deter my holly jolly celebration of the season. Christmas is supposed to be merry, isn’t it?
Joy, Gladness and all that Good Stuff
Festive music accompanies so many of our holiday activities. To me, Christmas activities and Christmas carols are like peanut butter and jelly. They just go together.
In yuletide songs of yesteryear we find messages for today. We hear words like joyful and rejoice, but let’s stop for a minute—“selah”—and think about the significance of these words. Consider for a moment that the literal definition of joyful is “full of joy.” That’s talking about a spiritual delight that reaches all the way to the tippy-tip-top!
When we have the joy of the Lord, we aren’t filled to the rim with grim, but with gladness that’s so full it splashes over from our “cups” into our surrounding “saucers.” I like living with overflow. I call it “sipping from the saucer,” and it brings to mind girlhood memories of my Daddy slurping coffee from the little dish under his cup. That’s what happens when a cup runneth over (Psalm 23:5). There’s extra!
Don’t Wait! Rejoice Now!
Did you ever notice in Luke 1:47 that Mary rejoiced in God her savior before she conceived the promise? Consider, also, the wise men from the East. They rejoiced with exceeding great joy when they had only seen the star (Matthew 2:10). Before they saw the babe in the manger, they celebrated the sign—the direction God had given them to find the promised Messiah.
As we go through our days, many of us likely have promises yet unfulfilled; but Mary and the wise men provide great examples to follow in these times. Rejoice now! We have the promise! We have the Word to show us the way. Hallelujah!image credit
What Gives Jesus Joy?
Living with the joy of the Lord is all well and good for us (and I like well and good, by the way), but did you ever wonder what gives Jesus joy? Jesus “rejoiced in His spirit” when His disciples returned from going out in the land ministering in His name (Luke 10:21). What a wonderful opportunity Christmas brings you and me to reach out to others.
During the holidays many doors open that are closed throughout the year, and hearts may be, even if unconsciously so, more friendly to thoughts of Jesus. He is, after all, the “reason for the season.”
People from all walks of life, churches of all denominations and secular organizations of all types share kindnesses at Christmas time. While giving a basket of goodies to a needy family or meeting a utility bill are wonderful expressions of compassion and good will, sharing Jesus is the best gift ever. He is the Son given for all mankind—a gift wrapped in swaddling clothes in Bethlehem; unwrapped for all at Calvary. And while we’re talking about joy, remember, it was for the joy set before Him that Jesus endured the shame and pain of the cross (Hebrews 12:2).
Jesus is the forever gift that always fits! He’s never outdated, and He will never become obsolete like the 8-track tape player Aunt Margaret just had to have in the 70s. He’s the gift that can change a life for the better, now and forever.
Woe in the Wassailing
Amidst the carols and celebrations, there’s no denying that some people experience annual bouts of holiday misery. Memories of Christmases past can affect the way we feel about Christmas today. To be honest, not every Christmas in my past holds sweet memories. To this day I cry when I unwrap ornaments and mementos from loved ones—my Dad who died the day before my first child was born, my grandparents, and my first husband who preceded me into eternity after only seven years of marriage.
It’s an undeniable fact that holidays magnify emotions—both positive and negative. If you or someone you know is struggling to find joy, I encourage you to spend some time thinking about the Lord.
Before Mary rejoiced, she first said, “My soul doth magnify the Lord.” Sure, that was easy for her to say, right? She had just received an angelic visitor and the best news ever. But with Mary’s acceptance of the Christ child in her womb, she faced rejection and ridicule. Her future was precarious, at best. It was a mixed blessing, we might say; yet she chose to be joyful.
Be Mary-like…and Magnify the Lord, not your Worries!
Good Christian women, rejoice! We have been redeemed and have the promise of heaven to celebrate. When we magnify the Lord, instead of our emotional responses to old memories or today’s challenges, I believe we can enter, even now, into the joy of the Lord.
Choose to focus on God’s Word, His character, His faithfulness, His provision, His power, His friendship, His sacrifice, and His great love. If we keep our thoughts on Him, and He’s living in us, joy is part of the equation. It’s a joy that lasts and a joy that gives us strength. It’s the joy of fellowship with God, even in sufferings.
When we hear or read rejoice, we know it means “to bring joy,” but let’s also think “re-joy”—as in having joy again. . .and again. . .and again! The prefix “re” indicates repetition. We can’t repeat something we’ve never experienced. If you’ve ever had joy, you can have it again—replay it—re-invite it into your heart and mind. Remember, my friend, Christmas brings tidings of comfort and joy—greetings of peace and happiness for you and me and all humanity!
Joy may seem a long way from where you are right now, but be encouraged! If all you have is a little faded memory of joy tucked away in a dry corner of your soul, I pray that it is renewed—that you “re-joy” as you magnify the Lord with me. Come on. Let’s do it right now! Our God is great! He is mighty! He’s an awesome God! He’s worthy of our praise and He is our exceeding great reward!
Jesus’ Joy—Alive and Well
What does Jesus have to say about joy? In John 15:11, He said, “these things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” The joy of Jesus remains for us today. This very moment you and I have access to a priceless commodity. Jesus abides with us as we journey through this weary world. Oh, come! Let us adore Him! Joyful and triumphant!
May the joy of Jesus bubble up in your spirit like a dishwasher loaded with the wrong kind of soap. Have you ever done that? Oh, those bubbles just can’t be contained—they ooze out all over the place!
My prayer for you this Christmas season, as we shop, wrap, bake, decorate and commemorate the birth of Jesus; is that your heart may truly be filled to overflowing with the abiding joy of Jesus. And may we give joy in return to the Lord by ministering to those around us, reaching out in His name with a helping hand, an encouraging word, an impacting prayer. Have a joy-full Christmas!
Lori Wagner is a gifted author, communicator and speaker. In 2006, she founded Affirming Faith to provide resources that educate, entertain and encourage Christians of all denominations. In the past six years, she has published twelve books, including the record-breaking “The Girl in the Dress” and two Christmas books: “Insight on Ministry from a Christmas Tree Farm” and “The 8 Days of Christmas.” In addition to Affirming Faith activities, Lori also serves as the Michigan State Coordinator for the National Day of Prayer and as an elected precinct delegate in her community. She loves to worship and share with others the goodness of God and rich treasures found in His Word. She and her husband Bill live in Michigan with their children and one spoiled dog.