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Summary: Christmas is meant to be joy time, and in the stories of Christmas from the Biblical to the secular there is a theme of joy amidst surprises that runs through them.

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Finding Joy Amidst Life’s Surprises

Luke 1:39-55 (New International Version)

39At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”

46And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, 49for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name. 50His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. 51He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. 52He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. 53He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. 54He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful 55to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.”

INTRODUCTION: The miserable ones?

Penelope J. Stokes in her book, SIMPLE WORDS OF WISDOM: 52 Virtues for Every Woman (Countryman, Nashville, 1998, p. 26) tells about a scene in the gripping film AMISTAD. A group of Africans--illegally seized and brought to America by slave traders--mutiny, kill most of their captors, take over the ship, and try to return home. Eventually caught and brought to trial, they watch in wonder and confusion as a group of local Christians gather to pray for them. "It’s some sort of dance," one of the Africans suggests as the religious folk get down on their knees.

"It can’t be," his friend responds. "They look too miserable to be dancing."

Everyone in the theater laughed. From that point on, the abolitionist Christians who come to lend their support are referred to, from the mutineers’ perspective, as "The Miserable Ones."

It’s a sad and significant commentary on how the world has come to view Christians. Many in society see Christians as The Miserable Ones, the people who have no sense of humor, no joy in life. It shouldn’t be that way. We are told over and over again to be joyful. Billy Sunday said, “if you have no joy, there’s a leak in your Christianity.”

Christmas is meant to be joy time, and in the stories of Christmas from the Biblical to the secular there is a theme of joy amidst surprises that runs through them. From the secular side, there’s the story of a broken nutcracker that becomes a prince. Scrooge faces up to himself and ends up singing for joy. A guy named George who lost everything discovers that it’s a wonderful life after all.

Yet joy goes beyond these Hollywood recreations of fantasy. Joy at Christmas is real. Angels bring good news of great joy to shepherds. Wise men respond with exceedingly great joy, and when a pregnant Mary encounters a pregnant Elizabeth, John the Baptist in the womb of Elizabeth leaps for joy.

So, how do we plug the joy leak? How do we move from being the miserable ones to the joyful ones? Today let’s look at 3 leaps for joy in How to Find Joy Amidst Life’s Surprises

LEAP 1. TRUST God is always present. Joy is an interesting word. It does not have an automatic opposite created by adding an "un" or "dis" to it. For example, there is pleasure and displeasure, there is happiness and unhappiness but there is no disjoy or unjoy. Joy is something that can take place no matter what else is going on.

When Christian missionaries first went to the northern part of Alaska, they began to seek to translate the Bible into the language of the Eskimos. After some time, they realized there was no word in the Eskimo language for joy. So they began studying the culture even more so, and finally choose a word for joy that was based on what they saw as the most joyful experience in an Eskimo’s daily life.

They decided the most joyful moments in those Eskimo villages were in the evenings when they fed their dogs who pulled their sleds. They would go out and the dogs would yelp and wag their tails and get all excited, and the kids would come out and there was a kind of neighborhood excitement about what was going on. So they pulled out of that experience for the word joy, wagging their tails. The result is when you translate the passage that talks about the disciples seeing Jesus after he rose from the dead and were filled with joy. The Eskimo literally says, "The disciples saw Jesus, and they wagged their tails."

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