Merry Christmas & Joy to the World!

Joy to the world the Lord has come…

This famous line makes it into every Christmas tradition, and it should. Joy accompanies the understanding of the incarnation, or the enfleshment of God in human form. As incomprehensible as it is that God would condescend to be with us here on Earth, it is what we believe to be true. How did it happen, only God knows, but why? He makes it clear to us in so many ways. 

John 14 comes to mind, with its ubiquitous language of relationship.  I think of John 3 and the famous “for God so loved….” statement. We know why he came; he came because he loves us. A realization that we are loved should and does always bring us joy.

From the love of our parents to the love of a partner, we are flooded with feelings of joy when we recognize and accept the love that is offered to us. And while there is “no greater love than one who lays down his life for another…” we don’t really even find joy from that kind of love. We find joy from any love that we accept as unconditional. I am reminded of this, as I write with two dogs at my feet.  Their unwavering love means that they are never too far from me. I accept that love and find joy in it as well. Imagine the joy that can come from a God who loves the world so much that he entered into it, not to condemn, but to save it.
That famous Christmas carol goes on to say that every heart should “prepare him room”. How do we do that? I would give three suggestions:
  1. Consider God. Not simply what God has done, but who God is. Is God good? And what expression does that goodness take in your life? How do you know God is good? And how does that lead you to make room and find joy? 
  2. Look back. Over this year, where have you seen God incarnated in your life? How has God been faithful throughout the year, and does that faithfulness give you joy in knowing that God is for you and not against you? 
  3. Take time. I know that sounds almost trite, but we need those moments of reflection, and they need to be intentional. To find God in our lives and to find God faithful is to find Joy ubiquitous in our lives. So make the time to do it.

“And heaven and nature sing” is the phrase I love most in this song. Not just because it is fun to sing, but because this joy is not relegated to me, or even to humanity. Rather, it is a universal response of all creation to the greatness and goodness of our God.  If everything incarnates, then Jesus is the incarnation of Love.  Therefore, when we make room in our hearts for Jesus, we live in that same love.  Recognition of pure love can only elicit one response, and that is Joy!
Timothy Gillespie
Lead Pastor at Crosswalk Church in Redlands, CA

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