Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.’”
New Revised Standard Version
Harper’s Study Bible
“A Time of Great Joy”
“For, behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of the singing of birds has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.”
Song of Solomon 2:11, 12
Will I allow heaven’s joy to fill my heart this Christmas Day and in the New Year?
“Christ is not only a remedy for your weariness and trouble; but He will give you an abundance of the contrary, joy and delight.”
“Real joy comes not from ease or riches or from praise of men, but from doing something worthwhile.”
Sir Wilfred Grenfell
How do you think you would have felt if last night you were outside alone, and all of a sudden, the dark sky was filled with a “host” of angels singing? How would you have responded? Would you have acted any differently after witnessing such an event?
If you are anything like the shepherds who received the heavenly announcement of Jesus’ birth, your world would have been turned upside down. Theirs' was! In fact, the angel who came to them made a prediction. Not only did he say I’m bringing you Good News, but then he made this fantastic forecast – the Good News he was sharing with earth would “bring great joy to all people.” His was a message that would be the cause of rejoicing for everyone!
Heaven’s gift of Jesus wasn’t some stingy present supplied only for a chosen group or a select few. It wasn’t a gift given to one religious denomination and not to another. It was heaven’s total unselfishness – a gift to all people. Why? So that joy would fill all the earth. The simple consequence of you and I accepting the gift of the Son is joy. This is what happens to us, we are filled with joyous rejoicing! Not some silly joy but a life-long joy that weathers the storms of life and even the grief of death. Joy is the result of God’s gift, Jesus, “to all people.”
The great hymn writer, Isaac Watts tried to capture the rapture of joy that was present at the birth of Jesus with the words he penned to the well-known Christmas Carol, Joy To The World:
“Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart
prepare Him room,
and heaven and nature sing.
“Joy to the earth,
the Saviour reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods,
rocks, hills and plains,
repeat the sounding joy.
“No more let sin and sorrow grow,
nor thorns infest the ground.
He comes to make His blessings flow,
far as the curse is found.”
King Solomon eloquently wrote in the Song of Solomon, “the winter is past,” for when Christ came to earth, wherever the curse was found was turned from a valley of sorrow into a mountain of rejoicing. As the theologian John Calvin noted, “There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice.”
As we have studied Luke 2, and seen all of heaven and nature singing aloud about joy to all people, why shouldn’t you and I, no matter what challenges we face today, rejoice that Jesus Christ was born?
One of my heroines is Helen Keller, who had plenty of reasons not to be joyful, yet, here is what she encourages all of us to do when confronted by every day difficulties: “Join the great company of those who make the barren places of life fruitful with kindness. Carry a vision of heaven in your heart…Joy is the holy fire that keeps our purpose warm and our intelligence aglow. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulty.”
The Psalmist David, a shepherd himself, spent many hours taking care of sheep in the fields of his father Jesse. Out in nature, under the wide blue sky and in the lush green pasture, these were the thoughts he reflected upon -- ponderings that brought joy into his heart: “The meadows are clothed with flocks, the valleys are also covered with grain: they shout for joy and sing together.” And then David invites you and me to join this joyful chorus: “Make a joyful noise unto God, all the earth” (Psalm 65: 13, Psalm 66: 1 Amplified Bible).
Not too long ago, I happened upon a program which was a Christmas Gospel Celebration by the late, great Ray Charles, one of my all-time favorite singers. Every song was over-the-top fantastic! But all of a sudden, the music became quiet and Ray Charles began a soft rhythmatic playing of a song that makes even quiet Dorothy shout for joy. Surrounded by the voices of one of the best choirs I’ve ever heard, Mr. Charles started singing, “O Happy Day!” The crowd came to their feet shouting for joy – and so did I!
When angels were sent from the heavenly courts to earth to sing a song of joy – what a sound it was – a sound for all people because freedom had come to you and me. O Happy Day! It’s enough to make us all shout for joy this Christmas!
“The religion of Christ is the religion of joy. Christ came to take away our sins, to roll off our curse, to unbind our chains, to open our prison house, to cancel our debt; in a word, to give us the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness…Where can we find a joy so real, so deep, so pure, so lasting? There is every element of joy –deep, ecstatic, satisfying, sanctifying joy in the Good News of Christ.”
“Compassionate and Holy God, we celebrate with joy Your coming into our midst; we celebrate with hope Your coming into our midst; we celebrate with peace Your coming into our midst; for You have come to save us. By Your grace we recognize Your presence in men and women in all parts of the world…Through Your strength our lives can proclaim joy and hope; Through Your love we can work for peace and justice, You are the source of our being; You are the light and joy of our lives.”
Based on lines from
A Latin American Prayer
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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