Isaiah 9:2-4,6-7, Titus 2:11-14, Luke 2:1-16
From “Joy to the World” to “Joy in My Heart”
Christmas is finally here. All four weeks of Advent we have been waiting and praying for the coming blessings of Christmas. And now Christmas is here. Today the angels are bringing us the good news of great joy for all the people, for to us is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. This good news of great joy is for all the people of God. As people of God we have a claim to the joy and the peace that the birth of Christ brings to the world. But how do I personally enter into this “great joy” of Christmas? Christmas rings out “joy to the world,” yes, but how do I make this joy my own? This is an important question, for, even though God has declared joy to the whole world, there are still many among us who do not flow in this joy, many among us who do not know how to claim this joy and make it their own personally.
A certain missionary was working in a rural African village that had no easy access to good drinking water. People walked for miles to the nearest river to get water. With his encouragement the people undertook a self-help project to sink a borehole. The local government supplemented the people’s efforts and a borehole was sunk in the village. In the meantime the missionary had left the village. Soon the village was enjoying fresh and clean drinking water from the borehole. So they wrote the missionary to come and see them and the great difference the borehole had made in the village. He went back to the village and rejoiced with them for the borehole that now gave fresh, clean water on demand. Then he decided to go round and visit some of his old friends. He entered the house of an old woman and asked her to give me a cup of the borehole water to drink. To his surprise she said that there was no drinking water in the house. “But the village now has water,” he said. “Yes,” she replied, “but the trouble is with my grandson who lives with me. I tell him to go and get water from the borehole and he wouldn’t listen to me. All he does is run about and play.”
There you are! You see, it is possible for someone to die of thirst in a village that has abundant drinking water. Why? Because there is no way the water out there in the borehole can become your own personally until you lift your foot to go there and draw the water that already belongs to you. The water in the borehole is yours by right. You are entitled to it. But you need to do something to claim this right before it can become your own personally, before it can actually quench your thirst. So is the good news of great joy that God showers on the world at Christmas. We still need to do something, make a little effort, before we can personally experience this joy in our lives, in our families, and in our world.
How do we do that? Well, that is rather easy to explain but pretty hard to practice, so I’ll explain. Look at the word JOY. You see that it is made up of three letters: first J, then O, and lastly Y. J stands for Jesus, O for Others, and Y for You. Joy therefore is: Jesus, Others, before You. To know joy in our lives we need to place Jesus first in everything. Secondly, we need to try to please others before trying to please yourself. That is the recipe for joy. That is how we can convert the Christmas “joy to the world” into a personal “joy in my life” now and always.
As we listen to the Christmas story we would do well to pay attention to the various people and groups of people that are mentioned and see whether they try to please Jesus and others before themselves, or whether they seek their own interests first. You will discover that those who practice J-O-Y are the ones who enjoy peace and joy, and that those who practice “self first” are always the unhappy and miserable ones. Here are a few examples.
On the negative side we have the innkeeper who turned Joseph and Mary out in the cold night while he enjoyed the warmth of the inn. There’s also Herod who wanted above all his job security as king to the point that he was prepared to kill Jesus and others. These people never get to experience the joy of the good news. On the positive side, consider the shepherds who leave everything they own, their flock, in the bush and go to adore Jesus first. Or the magi, the wise men from the East who leave the security of their homeland and make a long and dangerous journey to Bethlehem just to worship the new-born Jesus and give him gifts. These are the one’s who receive God’s favour, the ones who experience in their hearts the true peace and joy of Christmas. Let us today resolve to follow their good example by always placing Jesus and others before self and then the joy of Christmas will always be ours.