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From Chris's Heart


December 2010
The Joy of Christmas
by Nick Harris

I have always wondered why, on that first Christmas night, God chose to send his archangel and angelic singers to a bunch of shepherds, and not to those Pharisees and priests living in Jerusalem. The answer soon became clear. These Pharisees and priests were all bound up in their religion. In fact, these shepherds may have been the only people in the region who had enough faith in their hearts to accept a peasant child born in a cave as their long-awaited king.

The archangel, knowing this to be the case, said to the shepherds, “Do not be afraid; I bring you good news of great joy, which shall be for all people.” Notice the words “good news” in the angelic announcement. The archangel knew what we now know: the birth of Jesus was the beginning of the good news, but it was not the good news, itself. The real good news was/is this: the God who chose to enter into our humanity as a baby in a cave in Bethlehem of Judea was going to die on a cross one day, and then rise from the dead, and ascend to the right hand of God. That is the entirety of the good news.

So, the announcement to the shepherds that night was only the beginning of the good news of our salvation. But even the very beginning of this good news produces “great joy” for all those who receive it; not just a little joy, but “great joy.”

We Christians often tend to forget that one of the major reasons Jesus came to this earth was to bring us joy. Many people today, even devoted Christians, have never experienced this joy, and they have not experienced this joy, because they are confused about it. They do not understand the difference between the words joy and happiness. They have failed to recognize that these two words, joy and happiness, are not at all synonymous and they should not be confused with each other!

Happiness comes from the old English word, “hap.” According to Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, “hap” means “chance” or “fate.” If good things happen, if “chance” or “fate” is kind to us, then we are happy. But if bad things happen, if “chance” or “fate” is unkind to us, then we are unhappy. And when we are unhappy, we want whatever happened to cause us to be unhappy to suddenly unhappen.

The problem with seeking happiness instead of joy is that there is no lasting stability in happiness. Everything is at the whim of the fates. A life like this is an emotional rollercoaster. When fate is good, the emotions rise high, but when fate is bad the emotions become depressed. In this condition, life seems like it is not worth living. Thank God, when people are born again, they are saved from the domination of the haps in their lives. In fact, happiness should never be the life goal for any twice-born believer.

Remember this: Christ did not come to this earth to give us happiness; He came to give us joy. And remember this as well: there is no such emotion as unjoy; there is only joy. Joy is unique, because it is not a human thing; it is a “God-thing.” And because joy is a God-thing, it is independent of haps.

To a twice born believer, it does not matter what is happening to them or around them. Joy does not find its source in what is happening, it finds its source in the immovable; in God Himself. God has no haps. The more a believer dies to self and lives to God, the more God takes dominion. And the more God is allowed to reign in a life, the more joy that person will experience.

The Old Testament speaks of something it calls “everlasting joy;” that is, a joy that had no beginning and a joy that will never end. This joy cannot end, because it is not based upon anything that happens or does not happen; it is based upon God, himself. God is in a constant state of joy because He is totally pleased with Himself. God delights in Himself! God laughs with joy over Himself. He can do this, because there is none better than Him; there is none greater than Him.

Furthermore, He not only delights in Himself, He also delights in His plan. He delights in the way that He has chosen to redeem man. Joy, joy, joy! This gospel of ours, this good news of ours, is our introduction to this joy that is found in the heart of God.

During this Christmas season dwell on these things. Chris and I speak over you a Christmas filled with “joy unspeakable and full of glory.”





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