Learning to find our joy the way those surrounding Jesus' birth did
We all know the often-quoted scripture that highlights Jesus’ birth: “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people." This announcement is stirring for many reasons, not the least of which is the comprehensiveness of its scope. It is a message to ALL people, and further, it is a message of joy to all people! With all of the wonderful lessons and characters that surround this proclamation it is easy to lose sight of the simple presence great joy. It is easy for us to confuse this with happiness, but they are not the same. What does it mean to live joyfully? How did those involved in the story of Jesus’ birth find their joy? How do you live yours?
So, what is the difference between joy and happiness? When we are happy it is an emotional response to some kind of stimulus which can be internal or external. Everyone wants to be happy – who wouldn’t? The big issue with happiness is, because it is based on emotion, it can sometimes vanish as quickly as it appears. Joy, however, is much more than a feeling - it is a state of mind. It comes to us by way of realization and conviction. Joyful people have a settled purpose or direction within, and even negative external circumstances will not necessarily derail it.
Think about the shepherds tending their flocks in the hills around Bethlehem on the night of Jesus birth. These guys were basically invisible to the rest of society, for they spent their days and nights caring for sheep. Yet, God saw fit to have an angel tell these shepherds of all people that the Savior was born. And not only did God have an angel tell them, He had a multitude of angels sing the joy of Jesus’ birth! Who else in all of Bible Scripture heard an actual chorus of angels sing to them? Can you even imagine the lift and the joyful feelings these men would have experienced?
The Bible says they went to Bethlehem and found Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus who was peacefully lying in the manger. The shepherds told them of the angelic message and host, and their story brought wonder to those new parents. They then went away, praising God and telling all who would listen of these miraculous things. Try and put yourself in the position of those simple men and imagine the joy they must have felt as their experiences told them they were part of something world-changing and much bigger than themselves.
Once we figure out that joy is life-changing, we will want to give it permanent residence in our souls. Check out our December 23, 2018 podcast, “How do You Show Your Joy to the World?” and follow along with us as we tell the stories of the shepherds, May and Joseph, Simeon the prophet and the Wise Men and track the joy that overtook them at Jesus’ birth. Joy is contagious – catch it!
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