This Advent season should be no different from any other as we take time to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus. It ought to be a season of joy and laughter—a time to be “merry.” If you are a fan of those Hallmark movies like I am, you will notice a common thread—boy or girl starts off with an adversarial relationship with Christmas for whatever reason, usually because of a broken relationship or a stressful job, but then boy or girl meets and falls in love with a significant other who magically restores their joy and love for the holiday. They live happily ever after. Joy was lost, but two hours later, joy is found. Remind you of a popular old hymn? We who are in the Lord have seasons of lost joy, and for some, this particular season is legitimately saddening for many different reasons. Yet, if we remember the words of “Amazing Grace,” we can recall that although we were once lost in our sin and sadness, we are now found by the grace of our Lord Jesus. His birth paved the way for His grace. This amazing grace can introduce us to a life of inexplicable joy in the midst of hardship and feelings of defeat.
The psalmist in Psalm 42 is heard crying out for relief and comfort from the Living God. He is engulfed in tears, desperately reaching for the God of hope and salvation. He knows he has experienced joy in His presence; he remembers how he used to “go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng”(v. 4). This joy was once a reality for him, but it seems to be a distant memory now. After a brief lament, he ultimately remembers how to regain it. He purposes in his heart and mind to pursue it. He forces himself to remember and he tells himself to “put your hope in God” (v. 11). Basically, he questions his gloomy situation and determines not be downcast any longer. He makes the dramatic and transformational decision to praise the Lord because through it all, He is still his Savior and God.
Life offers many undeniably difficult and trying times. For the set of problems we each have, we could probably meet someone else who has twice as many, if not more. We also see the tragic occurrences around the world this month, such as the terror bombing of a Coptic Christian church in Egypt that killed more than twenty-five people just this past Sunday. How will those families experience joy this Christmas? How will it be a merry Christmas for those who have lost their homes in floods and fires across our country this past month? As believers, we MUST hold on to the reason Jesus was born and the purpose of His life here on earth. His life was meant to give us life—and with that life comes an unexplainable joy even amidst devastation. This is what sets us apart.
For the most part, the birth of a baby brings joy to a household and family. I remember when my first niece was born. The amount of joy she brought to our whole family was almost surreal after a season of sadness that affected us individually and collectively. This baby girl evoked every memory of pure joy and happiness over the years, as well as brought a new lifetime of hope in the God of joy.
Just as she did, the baby Jesus introduced boundless possibilities for a joyful existence for each and every one of us. Even more, his birth was unlike any other in that it made salvation a reality. No other baby would grow up to offer humanity eternal life AND joy unspeakable.
The key is to remember. Remember the “shouts of joy and praise” you have hopefully experienced time and time again. Just as the psalmist did, tell yourself to rejoice and to praise your Savior. Through it all—through the chaos and the pain that surrounds us, let us purpose to live “happily ever after” like the Hallmark movies. For us whose hope is in Christ, this “happily ever after” is the joy and peace of the Lord that surpasses all understanding and surmounts all circumstances.
May God bless you and your families this Christmas.