For what it’s worth. . . . this is the only time of the year when I use the words, “tis” and “tidings”. The mere use of these rather mysterious words brings on cravings of egg nog, peppermint and pumpkin pie….none of which I care for except around Christmas time…… but JOY…….now….there’s a word I’m ready for any time.
I’m glad we don’t limit this one to just a seasonal affair. Joy is one of those year-round things. It is noteworthy that the word is found over one hundred times in New Testament usage and its Hebrew equivalent is used frequently as well.
Even though Christmas carols might lead us to believe otherwise, there is not always comfort mixed with the joy in our tidings. James would remind us that trial, testing and trouble are sometimes connected with joy. (James 1:2)
A helpful clue is gained by consulting Paul in Philippians. He makes the point that life’s greatest joy is in knowing that one’s life is being spent in doing something which has lasting and permanent value.
Joy of the Philippian variety is expressed by Paul in terms of a sacrificial offering. Check out Philippians 2: 16-18 where the imprisoned apostle rejoices in his association with the Philippi Christians. He joyfully opens himself to the idea of being offered as a drink offering in fellowship with his fellow Christians. Embedded in Paul’s language is a grand intimacy and joy he finds in being offered on the same altar with his beloved Christian brothers and sisters.
The faithfulness of the Philippians was a personal thing to Paul.
He underscores the importance of their faith by saying that their faithfulness quells his fear that his work might have been ineffective. His fear is that the race he had run and the labor he had performed might have been for nothing. Paul is altogether human in his concerns. He wants to know that his life has counted for something.
Once convinced that his work has indeed been effective in the lives of these Christians, he is so full of joy that he erupts in this language of drink-offering sacrifice.
In this moment, he senses the connection with all his sermons, his letters, his imprisonment and his testimony…..with their transformed lives. In that moment, he experiences JOY. No trials, no imprisonments, no suffering….nothing could rob him of his moment of JOY.
So……how can we bring JOY to our world?
We can do this by spending our lives doing that which is of eternal consequence.
We can do this by bringing purpose, meaning and hope to a world which is so taken in by the temporary and the shallow.
We can bring JOY to the world by bringing them Jesus. By serving and sacrificing and specializing in grace and restorative lives.
As Christians, there should be no one on earth who can out-JOY us. We have the message, the Man, the means and the mechanism to bring JOY to the world. Let’s shout with the angels that Emmanuel is here. Let’s pour ourselves out on the altar of serving and loving others. God is among us. He yearns to fill our empty lives. He offers hope and healing.
and the ones to come.