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Here is the Redeemer!

by Leslie Greathouse

 

Midnight, Christians, is the solemn hour,

When God as man descended unto us

To erase the stain of original sin

And to end the wrath of His Father.

The entire world thrills with hope

On this night that gives it a Saviour.

 

People, kneel down, await your deliverance.

Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer,

Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer!

 

May the ardent light of our Faith

Guide us all to the cradle of the infant,

As in ancient times a brilliant star

Guided the Oriental kings there.

The King of Kings was born in a humble manger;

O mighty ones of today, proud of your greatness,

 

It is to your pride that God preaches.

Bow your heads before the Redeemer!

Bow your heads before the Redeemer!

 

The Redeemer has broken every bond:

The Earth is free, and Heaven is open.

He sees a brother where there was only a slave,

Love unites those that iron had chained.

Who will tell Him of our gratitude,

For all of us He is born, He suffers and dies.

 

People, stand up! Sing of your deliverance,

Christmas, Christmas, sing of the Redeemer,

Christmas, Christmas, sing of the Redeemer!

 

I’ve always had a love for Christmas music, particularly those put to choral arrangements. Maybe it’s because we get a glimpse of heaven when we all sing praises to the Lamb in one accord. If you’ve ever listened to a choir sing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” or “Still, Still, Still” you might experience the same sensation: the music draws you in and the emotions of the season trickle through the synapses and make your hairs stand on end.

No other song at Christmas has quite this effect as “O Holy Night.” The energy built by the angst of sin and darkness is released as we sing of the hope of Christ and we feel the overwhelming worship as our souls are consumed by the love of our King: “Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!” I get chill bumps just thinking about it.

On the eve of Christmas, this final day of our Advent season, we focus on the whole of Immanuel: Hope with us. Peace with us. Joy with us. Love with us. God with us.

The above poem is the literal English translation of the French poem and song “Minuit, chrétiens (Midnight, Christians),” from which we get our “O Holy Night.” The words speak for themselves and echo the message of the Gospel. Our Redeemer is here! Bow your heads before the Redeemer! People, stand up! Sing of your deliverance!

 

(“O Holy Night” holds a rich history of its own. I highly recommend Googling the history of “O Holy Night” to read the full story and impact of this song. You can also find it in the book Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas by Ace Collins.)

 

 

Love, Love, Love

Scripture: Matthew 22:36-40

 

*Everybody now*

“All you need is love (bah bah dah dah dah)

All you need is love (bah bah dah dah dah)

All you need is love, love, love is all you need.”

 

Now that you will have that song stuck in your head all day, we can all acknowledge The Beatles, and the 60s counterculture in general, got quite a bit wrong, but they got at least one thing right: it’s all about love. God’s love.

One of their religion scholars spoke for them, posing a question they hoped would show him up: “Teacher, which command in God’s Law is the most important?”

Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.” (MSG)

Love reigns. I appreciate The Message illustration that loving God and loving others are two pegs from which everything else hangs. Why did God send His Son? Because He loves us. (John 3:16) How do we know how to love? Because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19) We have life because of love. (Eph. 1:4-10)

It’s interesting to see the effects of love across the decades. We’ve seen protests, marches, songs written, non-profits created, and so much more as humanity strives to find and feel love. It gets skewed as Satan fights to blur our vision to Truth. Only Jesus can give us the purest love. “No one has greater love than to lay down his own life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

Love is all you need — Christ’s love. The love He illustrated by being born a man knowing that life would end in sacrifice.

In a life that is full of hurts, sorrows, and pain it’s difficult to keep our eyes on something that seems so far away. Keep holding on to the hope, peace, joy, and love that Jesus brings to you. He is the only Truth. He is love.

 

 

 

The Picture of Love

by Leslie Greathouse

 

I have a friend who is a fantastic artist. Ever since he was little, he’s been creating beautiful pieces of artwork. It’s in his blood it seems, his dad is an artist as well. The way he uses colors and textures, it’s beyond my natural talents for sure.

He has children of his own now, and if you go to his house and down the hallway, he’s created a gallery for the art his children create. There is a stark contrast between his work and his kid’s, but he is so proud of all of it because they’re following in his footsteps. He sees their work as perfection. They look at his pieces for inspiration as they explore their own individual gifts and abilities. They ask him questions on technique and he shares all of his knowledge with them freely and joyfully. He gently critiques them as they learn different aspects of being an artist.

This is how I imagine our relationship with Christ’s love. He is the perfect Artist, the Son of a perfect Artist. In his birth as man, He made His love available to all. At the moment of our acceptance of Jesus as our Savior, we are adopted into His family of perfect artists. He is so proud when He sees us replicating the traits of His family. He’s given us guidelines to follow in order to practice over and over again. He meets us where we are and teaches us more suitable techniques to create a more perfect picture.

Being an artist is difficult. Even if you have some natural ability it takes a lot of practice and there’s always some weak areas or some flop pieces. The beauty of it all is Jesus is our master and perfecter, hence we couldn’t have a better teacher and inspiration.

Paul writes a great description of Jesus in his first letter to the Corinthians:

Jesus endures with patience and serenity, He is kind and thoughtful, and is not jealous or envious; Jesus does not brag and is not proud or arrogant. He is not rude; He is not self-seeking, He is not provoked nor overly sensitive and easily angered; He does not take into account a wrong endured. Jesus does not rejoice at injustice but rejoices with the truth when right and truth prevail. He bears all things- regardless of what comes, believes all things- looking for the best in each one, hopes all things- remaining steadfast during difficult times, endures all things without weakening.

Jesus never fails; He never fades nor ends.

Go forth and be confident in His love for you and, in so doing, share His love with others. Beautiful art is shamefully wasted.

 

 

Loving Means Losing

by Luke McDonald

 

Jesus often had a way of turning things on their heads and confusing just about everybody. You see this multiple times in the way He describes and explains love. Matthew 5:44 is a perfect example. Jesus, to paraphrase, says, “You think, and have always thought, that reality works this way, but it’s the opposite.” Most days we, along with the disciples, still don’t get it. When we learn of love from the Bible, it’s often described from two different angles:  a) how God loves and b) how we are called to love. God serves as our example of how we should love both Him and one another. A thread tied to these concepts of love, regardless of the angle, is the idea that loss is required to love. In John 3:16, 1 John 4:9-10, and Romans 5:8, among others, we see that God loved us through the loss of His Son. 1 Corinthians 13 is an entire chapter dedicated to how our love ought to look.

 

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

 

The concepts of things like patience, humility, endurance, etc. are not natural human actions. Love clearly requires much of us and goes against our best self-interests, and this is a good thing. In fact, the reason we are intrigued by stories of people who endure great hardship for a larger goal is precisely that it goes against one’s own best self-interests.

 

The stories of individuals such as Mother Teresa, St. Francis, Louis Zamperini or Alex Honnold are exciting and inspirational. It’s admirable to see people ignore their default-wiring to accomplish something more significant and love exists as the greatest denial of our default-wiring.

 

When someone swings back to hit us, we flinch. We don’t think about it; we naturally react physically to protect ourselves. It would be odd to behave differently, especially behavior that opened ourselves up to more damage.

 

Choosing to love is this exact kind of reaction. It is a way of telling someone else, whether it be another person or God, that they matter more than you. Love is not natural, which is precisely what makes it so beautiful. Unlike the example of getting hit, however, when we choose to love, we don’t run the risk of being physically harmed as much as damaging our ego.

 

In his book, Falling Upward, Richard Rohr says of the ego, “The human ego prefers anything, just about anything, to falling, or changing, or dying. The ego is that part of you that loves the status quo – even when it’s not working. It attaches to past and present and fears the future.” It is for this reason that we often neglect to love. The cost of love is high, and the only guarantee is that we will have to lose a part of our ego to accomplish it. This loss is not only encouraged; it’s part of the system.

 

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23

 

If “taking up your cross” doesn’t sound like a fun endeavor, you’re reading the passage well. Following God, according to Luke, mostly seems to mean accepting the loss, pain and even death that is required before following Jesus. Jesus appears to be turning the idea of love on its head yet again. How do we win? We lose. And love requires that of every one of us every single day.

 

“To pray and actually mean “thy Kingdom come,” we must also be able to say “my kingdoms go.” – from Eager to Love by Richard Rohr

 

Jesus never said, “They’ll know you’re mine by your correct theology, your perfect behavior and by who you vote for.” What he did say was, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Love is the one requirement. Love requires vulnerability, which is often scary. Often we want to create the perfect veneer to hide our broken selves and maintain our ego. Knowingly cracking that veneer is dangerous, and feels like death. But, we are called to reveal the crack in our veneer and choose to love because as Leonard Cohen perfectly said, “that’s how the light gets in.”

Re-Destined by Love

by Brandon Shuman

 

Scripture: Genesis 3:14-15; Psalm 139; Ephesians 1:3-14, 2:8-10; I John 4:3-21

 

We have considered how Advent is about peace. We may, therefore, find it strange to observe that the very first prophecy concerning Advent is a declaration of war.

“So the LORD God said to the serpent: Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly, you shall go, And you shall eat dust all the days of your life.

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed. He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.”

“How,” we may ask, “can Advent be about peace when it was inaugurated in war?” This is because Advent is also about something else – Love.

God created the world out of love. Every star in the night sky; every bird in the air; every fish in the sea; and every living thing that creeps on the earth was conceived and fashioned by God’s love. But nothing on earth is more beloved by God than His people. Read Psalm 139. It assures you that before you ever took physical form that God loved you and that you are fearfully and wonderfully made. Read Ephesians 1:3-14 and 2:8-10. It affirms that God wove a divine destiny for you before He even laid the foundations of the earth. God loves you beyond all reckoning. Everyone was created to live and work in perfect harmony with God forever.

However, this intended peace was broken when our first parents believed the lie and disobeyed the command. The harmony between Creator and Creation was destroyed. Having usurped the divine authority bestowed to man to rule the earth in partnership with God, the destroyer now went about ripping apart the goodness of creation. The destroyer’s chaotic hate supplanted the cosmic order of the Creator’s love throughout creation. Sin now reigned over the world. The destiny of peace and joy intended by God was now thwarted by a new future of misery and death. And the entire cosmos was doomed.

But God’s omniscience foresaw all this. He counted the cost. And out of His love for the world, He declared war on the destroyer and all sin and death. And when Jesus uttered, “It is finished!” as he was dying on the cross, he was not acknowledging defeat. He was declaring victory!

From His immense and unending love for you – even while you were still His enemy – God sacrificially gave Himself on your behalf so that you would wondrously regain the once-in-eternity opportunity to live the everlasting destiny He designed specifically for you.

To redeem this destiny, God has reclaimed for us through the Advent of the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, we must believe in Him. We are adopted into God’s family and gracefully granted eternal life through faith. This irrevocable gift gives irrevocable life which no sin – past, present, or future – can kill. For this, we rejoice in the peace of what God has done!

The fullness of this destiny is redeemed by living a life of faith through the trials of this life. For it is through these fires that God mysteriously forges the character of Jesus within each of us so that we can lay hold of all that He has in store for us in the New Heaven and the New Earth. If we are to fulfill the eternal and divine destiny God has for us, we must believe in His Divine Son and answer His divine calling by active faith now. For this, we rejoice in the hope of what God is doing in our lives!

Advent is about Hope. It is about Peace. And it is about Joy. But most of all Advent is about Love. For it is God’s love that makes Advent’s Hope, Peace, and Joy not only possible but – and more importantly – real.

As we remember these marvelous things this Advent, let us have a living faith that both fulfills our Lord’s command and His incredible destiny for us by being perfected by God’s love – and so love one another because He first loved us.

This is Love

by Randy Sims

 

Cody squeezed his eyes as tight as he could.  Cody’s mother squeezed his hand as tight as she could.  The nurse said, “Cody, you’re going to feel a little stick” as she slid the needle into his forearm.  As the nurse released the tourniquet around Cody’s little arm, the lifeblood flowed deep red through the tube to a bag next to him.

 

As seven-year-olds go, Cody was healthy, in fact quite healthy.  But his older sister, Karen, was not.  He had overheard the doctors speaking to his parents with hushed tones leading to grim lined faces: something about her ability to fight off bugs, or germs, or something like that.  Whatever it was it scared his parents to the point Dad didn’t want to talk about it, and Mom seemed always to be on the edge of tears.  His sister was very sick, and she was dying.

 

To save her life, Cody would have to give his blood to Karen.  The doctors explained the procedure in their best second-grade logic, but Cody only understood that Karen needed his blood now.

 

As Cody lay still on the gurney in the hospital room, gripping his mother’s hand, he released his eyes to look up at the attending nurse.

“Cody, does it hurt?”, the nurse asked.

With the slight voice of a child trying to be brave, Cody said, “No ma’am.”

“You can relax now, Cody.”, whispered his mom.

His body unclinched at the sound of his mother’s voice and the soft care on her face.

“When am I going to die?”, Cody gulped to the nurse.

The nurse looked up from her work with a puzzled stare, “Cody, you are not going to die.  We are just taking some of your blood to give to your sister, and we think it will help her get better.”

“I’m not?”

“No, Honey.”, his mother said, trying to control the wave of pride and fear that threatened to overtake her.

 

Cody had offered his life for his sister’s.  This. Is. Love.

 

We do not know love because the culture has defined it for us.

We do not know love because we are inclined to do it.

We do not know love because it feels right.

We know this is love because He first loved us, because He showed us what love is, because He sacrificed Himself for us at the cross, in the garden, at the temple, and in the manger.

The early church had benedictions or “good words” to conclude their worship services.  Philippians 2:5-11 was one such good word to remind the body what love is, who loves us, and how He loves us.

 

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,  but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, [and] being made in the likeness of men.  Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,  so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Instruments of Joy

by Brandon Shuman

Scripture: Mark 10:45; Philippians 2:5-11; Romans 12:1-8; Hebrews 12:1-2; Luke 9:23-26

 

The three humblest instruments of Christian Joy are a Manger, a Wash Basin, and a Cross.

The first is a feed trough for animals. The second is a lowly servant’s bowl for wiping filth from other people’s feet. And the last is a socially stigmatizing and torturously cruel device for executing criminals. Three very different objects. Each playing a distinct role in the life of our Savior. Each an emblem of Joy.

 

The Manger as a Christian emblem of Humble Joy

 

When God left the comforts of Heaven and was born into our world, He was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a Manger. How strange must it have felt to be stung by the cold night’s air on His mortal skin? How helpless must it have been for the One who spoke worlds into existence to be able to do no more than let out an inarticulate wail? The Summoner of Angels, Ruler over all Principalities, God Himself was now entirely dependent upon others to meet His every need. And yet He came to meet humanity’s deepest need.

When God came to earth that Bethlehem night, He had stripped Himself of His divine majesty so that the World could be made Flesh. And the Manger is the symbolic portal whereby God humbled Himself to leave Heaven and enter our desperate world. His nearness is a great comfort. His presence is peace. His message is love. And the salvation He brings is our joy.

 

The Wash Basin as a Christian emblem of Humble Joy

 

Everyone wants to be great, but only Jesus showed us the way. “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…” The teachings and actions of Jesus depicted the ways of Heaven. He showed us how to live. Christ is our example of how true greatness looks. And He bids us be great by following His example.

On the night He was betrayed, after the meal was served, Jesus rose from the table and grabbed a Wash Basin. And He began washing His disciples’ feet. The Master of all was Servant to all. Our Bethlehem-born Lord showed them that true greatness is attained not by exalting oneself above those more lowly than themselves, but by humbly meeting their needs. And in this is attainment of greatness there is great joy.

 

The Cross as a Christian emblem of Joy

 

God was made man so that He could suffer and die on man’s behalf. Where is joy in suffering? Where is there joy in rejection, cruelty, and death? The One who left Heaven for a Bethlehem Manger would die on a Roman Cross.

But the joy Christ found was not in the sufferings and shame of the Cross – these He scorned and despised. It was not the Cross, but the joy set before Him that lay beyond the Cross that delighted our Savior. It was the Joy of Resurrection and the new life it gave to a dying creation. It was the joy of the reward awaiting Him when He returned to Heaven. It was the joy of pleasing His Father who loved Him dearly. The Cross was the instrument where Christ became the Suffering Servant who redeemed the cosmos. His obedience led to the greatest joy.

The Manger. The Wash Basin. And the Cross.

This Advent we are to find our greatness and joy through humbly serving one another. As our Lord washed the feet of those who followed Him, so too ought we wash the feet of those around us. (This is living out Romans 12.)

This Advent we are called to pick up the crosses set before us and follow our Lord; to surrender all our claims for His sake; to fix our eyes on Jesus and, like Him, despise the suffering and shame for the joy He sets before us. (Luke 9:23-26, Hebrews 12:1-2)

And this Advent some people are hurting that desperately need God’s love to be humbly born in the depths of their despair. We are called to bring the joyful news and comforts by entering the brokenness through the mangers of opportunity. (This is Philippians 2:4-11.)

And may we too be instruments of Christ’s joy to a joyless and Christ-less world.

Whose feet are you washing?

What are you doing with the crosses laid before you today?

In whose name are you bearing them?

What mangers are you humbly entering?

To whom are you sharing God’s joyful light and becoming the embodiment of His love?

Rejoice

by Leslie Greathouse

 

Scripture: Luke 1:41-55

 

The night Jesus was born was not the first time His presence inspired a joyous reveille. His birth did indeed begin a new awakening; however, Luke’s account of the Gospel shares a beautiful interaction while Jesus was still just freshly in the womb. Note: following the timeline given, Jesus’s human form is no bigger than a tiny tadpole at the time of this occurrence. Keep that in mind as you imagine the story that unfolds.

 

A Leap in the Womb

 

Once Mary heard from the angel Gabriel of her surprising pregnancy she hurriedly went to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, who was also expecting a miraculous and prophesied baby, John (the Baptist).

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. And she cried out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy.

The instant Jesus entered the home, His cousin John, the one who was sent before Him, leaped for joy in his mother’s womb. The Holy Spirit filled Elizabeth, and we can only imagine the joy and celebration that filled the room.

 

Spontaneous Song

 

The joy and hope which enveloped Elizabeth soon took hold of Mary. She traveled a long way to see Elizabeth having just heard the news she was pregnant, and she wasn’t even married yet. Mary was in a place unknown; thus she wanted someone to talk to and walk through this time with her. Mary had already openly accepted Gabriel’s decree, and now the Holy Spirit confirmed, once again, the presence of Jesus. Mary couldn’t hold her relief and celebration in any longer and praise and adoration spilled out of her:

“My soul exalts the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
“For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave;
For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.
“For the Mighty One has done great things for me;
And holy is His name.
And His mercy is upon generation after generation
Toward those who fear Him.
“He has done mighty deeds with His arm;
He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart.
“He has brought down rulers from their thrones,
And has exalted those who were humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things;
And sent away the rich empty-handed.
“He has given help to Israel His servant,
In remembrance of His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and his descendants forever.”

 

Just a Little Bit of Jesus

 

There was just a little bitty physical presence of Jesus in the room at Elizabeth’s house; however, the entire presence of His hope, peace, joy, and love fill the home.

His joy catches flame and spreads through the body. Joy is not a passing emotion as happiness is. Joy is planted deep and becomes a part of you through Jesus Christ. It overcomes fear and doubt.

 

Be Renewed

 

Jesus told his disciples after asking them to abide in Him, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (Jn 15:11)

This Christmas may the joy of the Lord fill your heart and soul in ways that strengthen you beyond any hardship and doubt. May He send you confirmation of His hope, peace, joy, and love as He did Elizabeth and Mary. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.

 

 

 

A Constant Presence

by Austin Agnew

 

The birth of Christ was announced to the shepherds, by the angels in this way, “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”

The coming of the Messiah was heralded to the shepherds as the “good news that will cause great joy.”  The birth of the Messiah causes great joy; it is a necessary by-product of the news.  That is what makes true joy so interesting – true joy is caused by the work of God.

It was the action of God that caused joy. A Savior was born.  It was not receiving the Messiah that produced joy that night.  It was not understanding that produced joy.  It was merely the birth of the Savior that caused joy.

The burden of joy is that we cannot choose it or create it.  Joy is a response.  It is a response to some delightful event.  My wife found great joy in the smiles of our children.  I know men that find joy in the victory of their college’s football team.  These are wonderful and delightful.  But these moments of joy are passing and depend upon continually changing circumstances.

While those in the world must wait for another delightful event to enter into joy again, we as believers are given a great gift – we may enter into joy any time we desire.  It is not that as a believer we have the power to create joy apart from the external stimulus.  No, our joy must still be caused by a delightful event.  What is different is the Holy Spirit permits us to step into that place of delight at any time.

A part of us exists in the throne room of heaven and participates in the divine relationship that God the Father and Christ Jesus experience.  There is no more joyful place than to enter into that relationship.  As a result, we as believers can be joyful at all times.  Not by an act of the will but by the Holy Spirit acting upon us and allowing us to experience the presence of God.

The angels proclaimed joy to the shepherds because God had entered their world.  Now, we get to experience joy, because we have, through that same infant, entered into God’s relationship.

Joy

by Micah Dunn

 

“Come, Thou long expected Jesus

Born to set Thy people free;

From our fears and sins release us,

Let us find our rest in Thee.

Israel’s strength and consolation,

Hope of all the earth Thou art;

Dear desire of every nation,

Joy of every longing heart.”

 

The lyrics of this Christmas hymn have been on repeat in my head lately.  I think the deepest longings of my soul are joining in the plea for Jesus to come.  As I sing and meditate on the words, I find myself in whole-hearted agreement that only He can provide true rest, strength, hope, and joy.

Joy. It’s a theme so prevalent around the Christmas season.  Culture and advertisements tell us it’s a feeling, that we can simply buy it, find it, or create it if we just have the right stuff or circumstances.  It’s a battle to not buy into the ever-present lie of “if I just had this, I would be happy.”

However, as I searched the scripture, I find that God’s word proclaims a directive fiercely opposed to the message that the world is shouting at us constantly, especially during this Advent season.  Joy is rooted not in the things around us or situations were walking through, but instead in Jesus, the humble king whose coming we celebrate this Christmas.

Joy is a choice.  It’s a perspective that we have a good, sovereign, trustworthy, and faithful Father who always has what’s best for us at heart, and He loves us intimately and deeply.  He always provides us with precisely what we need. He is a great comforter who can sympathize in our weakness and draws near to us in the darkest, most painful circumstances life brings. He is our Emmanuel, God with us.

I think the Lord knew I needed a reminder of this.  To be honest, I’m giggling at the fact that I agreed to write a blog on joy.  Choosing joy has been such a challenge as our family has walked a road of health trials recently. As we’ve encountered these circumstances we would have never chosen, the words of Nehemiah 3: 17-19 have been encouraging to me.

 

“Though the fig tree may not blossom,

Nor fruit be on the vines;

Though the labor of the olive may fail,

And the fields yield no food;

Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,

And there be no herd in the stalls—

YET I will rejoice in the LORD,

I will joy in the God of my salvation.

The LORD God is my strength;

He will make my feet like deer’s feet,

And He will make me walk on my high hills.”

 

The “YET” that starts verse 18 always stands out to me. It’s a reminder that I can rejoice regardless of my life circumstances.  I can find joy when my life is just as I planned, and the outcomes are just as I hoped.  I can also rejoice when I’m utterly exhausted and burdened because the people I love the most are hurting.

Throughout the psalms, David reminds us countless times that our joy is in the Lord.

Psalm 5:11

“But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; Let those also who love Your name be joyful in You.”

 

Psalm 16:11

“You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

 

Psalm 32:11

“Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!”

 

Paul also expounds on rejoicing always, not just when its comfortable, and adds to it thankfulness.

 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

 

Philippians 4:4-7

“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

 

I hope this Christmas is full of joy. Not the temporary feeling or emotion that comes when you get the gift you wanted, your team wins the big game, or you get two pieces of your favorite pie.  Instead, a perspective that acknowledges that in all circumstances, the mountain tops, valleys, and in between, we can choose and experience a deep, everlasting joy rooted in Christ the Savior because “Joy to the World, the Lord is come!”