Good News of Great Joy
The first announcement of Christmas was joy: “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” (Luke 2:10)
Unfortunately, the holiday season can be anything but joyful. Many are struggling with broken families, loss of jobs, financial distress, physical illness and limitations, anxiety, depression, and addiction. We find difficulty with finding joy in the present when we find ourselves in the midst of a stressful season. And yet, there it is: a message of great joy “to all people.”
Did God not think to include the people who are struggling?
When Life is Less Than Joyful
I have often wondered about those shepherds who were the first to hear the message of joy. Did they, too, have struggles? Were they struggling with financial stress, difficulties at home, or addiction? I think we have to assume that they had the same issues that we face today. How could they—and we—find joy in the present, in seasons when life is less than joyful?
The message is that God was as near as the closest stable. The message is that God is immanent. The message is that God is Immanuel, “with us.” The message is that we can find joy in the present circumstance because God “became flesh and dwelt among us.” In the midst of our pain and distress, God is with us. That is the message of joy at Christmas.
Greater Than Present Circumstance
Joy is more than the feeling of happiness. Joy is a profound feeling of contentment, even in the midst of difficult circumstances. One way to nurture joy is by practicing gratitude. If we know that God is with us and working on our behalf, we will always find something for which to be thankful.
Begin every day with a gratitude list. My daughter recently was in a car accident on her way back to college. While no one was hurt, the car was damaged, and she was quite distraught. Rather than focusing on why this happened, we were able to give thanks that: 1) No one was hurt, 2) The car can be fixed, and 3) She was able to continue her trip and make it home safely. In spite of how difficult the situation was, we were able to find gratitude and that led to finding joy in the present circumstance.
Regardless of your life circumstances, you can be grateful when you know that God is with us. And that is “good news of great joy for all the people.”