It is no coincidence that for a great many people who cherish Christmas, it is not the presents or the parties, the music or even the Christmas bonus that they so enjoy – but it’s the time with family and traditions shared… And equally, there is the great pain when families are broken or unstable.
When I became a father, I discovered something altogether new about love and the joy that a child brings. There is truly nothing like the laughter of your own child. What I look forward to most at Christmas, now, is the pure excitement my children will feel – and that is because of the joy it brings me – it is also no coincidence that it is often out of the joy of the parent that a child feels most loved and blessed.
Revealed in Jesus, is one of the great mysteries of redemption history that God is fashioning for himself a family of faith – for every individual who hears the gospel of salvation and believes becomes a co-heir of Christ, member of the same family, and partners in the promise of Jesus (see Eph. 3:6).
All this and much more we read in the book of Ephesians – in chapter 3. But, not so fast. Paul opens this letter by writing in Chapter 1:3 – “Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ.” My mind and imagination so quickly go to considering those spiritual blessings God is giving me that I pass over the point of the sentence – God is blessed, He is the one who is happy. It gives God great joy that the mystery of Salvation through faith is revealed in Jesus and the Church grows daily with new members, partners in the promise and co-heirs.
We sing Joy TO the World – But what if the Joy of Christmas is God’s Joy – more than ours? For the Christian – our joy often comes in the morning.
By that, I mean when it comes to our joy – we can taste it, see it, grasp for it… but we have not yet taken hold of it. We wait for it. And when we do take hold of it – Jesus said in the Gospel of John that it will be a joy so complete that we will not need to ask him for anything more.
Our joy is now – but not yet. The Joy of Christmas – is God’s joy.
How does it affect the way we think of God to know that the mystery of the incarnation, the birth of Jesus, the life he lived, the kingdom he proclaimed, his sacrificial death on the cross, and then the very power of God demonstrated in raising Him from the dead and placing in him all authority and honor and glory and dominion, forever – this brings him joy.
I think of him more as my father – out of His joy he blesses me in Christ.
At the end of Ephesians 3, Paul prays again for the church – but this time, his prayer is not focused on the church knowing the truth and the power of God – but being transformed and filled with the power of God. Paul writes, “I pray that he may grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with power in your inner being…”
That strength in our inner being is the very substance that graced the prophets and kings, carried the hopes of the faithful servants who never saw the fruit of their service in this life, and carried the martyrs to their heavenly dwelling through pain and suffering – it is the joy of the Lord.
It is good news indeed that the joy of Christmas is God’s – because “The Joy of the Lord is my Strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
This year, I pray that you experience the strength that comes from Joy – Joy we celebrate at Christmas.