Great Joy at Christmas

Here’s a post I recently wrote for the Heritage Seminary Blog.

If you are feeling weary right now, you’re not alone.  I was recently on a call with ministry leaders from across Canada.  Many spoke of being worn down by long hours of work, drained from dealing with the complications of COVID.  One leader spoke of “crawling towards Christmas.”

For students and faculty, we find some relief in knowing we are close to completing fall courses.  (In my seminary days, I remember smiling when a friend intentionally misquoted Shakespeare: “All’s well that ends”).

While we should find joy in finishing the semester, we long for a deeper joy at Christmas time.  Instead of merely crawling towards Christmas, we want to cherish it. We want our hearts to soar as we reflect on the wonder of the incarnation.  After all, the angel’s Christmas announcement to the shepherds was meant to jump-start joy: “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10).

So how do we rekindle the joy of Christmas when we’re worn down and weary? 

This Christmas, I’m taking my cues from the shepherds.  In Luke 2:15-20, we’re told three ways the shepherds responded to the Christmas news.  Following their lead will help us get in on their joy.

Hurry to Jesus.  “And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger” (2:16).  Christmas is often filled with hurry:  we hurry to finish assignments, order presents, prepare meals, and a host of other things.  But hurry leaves us breathless and joyless.  So, this Christmas, make haste to slow down and revel in the majesty and mystery of Christ’s coming.  Reflectively read the opening chapters of Matthew, Luke and John.  Turn down the lights and turn up a worship-filled Christmas album. (Linda and I are enjoying Phil Wickham’s CD: “Christmas”). 

Spread the news.  “And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child” (2:17).  The shepherds told others what they had learned about the baby—that he was “Saviour”, “Christ”, and “Lord” (2:11).  We know more about Jesus than the shepherds did.  We know of his sacrificial death and victorious resurrection.  Joy comes to our hearts when we open our mouths to tell others the good news. 

Glory and praise God.  “And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them” (2:20).  C.S. Lewis observed that praise increases joy: “I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment” (Reflections on the Psalms).  Make your joy complete by making sure to overflow with praise to God for the gift of His Son.

Here is the sermon that was the foundation for this post. I recorded it for West Village Church in Ottawa.

I mentioned that Linda and I are enjoying the music of Phil Wickham this Christmas. Here’s his song, “Joy to the World.” It sparkles with great joy!

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