Summary: If the birth of Jesus was good news that brought joy to all the people, why is it so tough to be joyful?
“The Difference Christmas Makes: The Attitude of Christmas”
The words are so familiar: “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” Because of Christmas, our attitude should be one of joy. So, what is your joy quotient? How joyful – how consistently joyful – are you? If the birth of Jesus brought joy, why is it so tough to be joyful?
Ps. 126 points us in a helpful direction. The center of the Psalm, verse 4, is A PRAYER OF RECOGNITION. “Restore our fortunes, LORD,
like streams in the Negev.” The Israelites had been living in a joyless world and were SEEKING RESTORATION. So the Psalmist acknowledged that the world and life were not what they were meant to be. Their years of slavery, wandering, and captivity had sucked away their joy; they had little reason to laugh.
In some ways our age is not much different. We, too, long for joy. That’s why our age can be called ‘The Entertainment Age.’ The burgeoning entertainment industry is a sign of a searching, bored society. Professional athletes, and actors and actresses are paid millions of dollars to entertain us. The varied strands of entertainment may amuse us, but all the while ENTERTAINMENT DIVERTS OUR ATTENTION from the issues that rob us of joy. As Eugene Peterson wrote, “Society is a bored, gluttonous king employing a court jester to divert it after an overindulgent meal.” (i)
The first robber of our joy is that we think joy is a commodity up for sale. But WE CANNOT PURCHASE OR EARN JOY. Joy is not a product to purchase but a by-product of an attitude. That’s why James could write (James 1:2), “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…” It’s why Paul could write (Phil. 4:4 NLT) “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!”
A second robber of joy is that OUR HEARTS ARE FILLED WITH ANXIETY. It is significant that immediately after Paul said to rejoice in all things, he said “Do not be anxious about anything…” And it was Jesus who said (Mt. 6:25) “Do not worry about you life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” It is hard to be joyful when we live in a state of worry. And whatever joy our entertainment brings does not change us or get inside us – it does not touch the root cause of our joylessness – our worry. All it does is divert our attention form the source of our joylessness.
So we need restoration. As Peterson stated, “But there is something we can do. We can decide to live in response to the abundance of God, and not under the dictatorship of our own poor needs. We can decide to live in the environment of a living God and not our own dying selves. We can decide to center ourselves in the God who generously gives and not in our own egos which greedily grab.” (ii)
The Psalmist tells us we begin to center ourselves in God whenever we walk A PATHWAY OF REMEMBRANCE. (1-3) “When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” The Israelites renewal of joy began as they RECALLED THEIR HISTORY. When they did they remembered how their national woes were replaced with national deliverances. They went from slavery to freedom, from 40 years wandering in the wilderness to the Promised Land, from 20 years under Canaanite rule to freedom under Deborah, from 7 years under the Midianites to freedom under Gideon, from living in fear of Goliath to living in confidence with David, and from Babylonian captivity to freedom under King Cyrus. EACH REVERSAL WAS DEEMED IMPOSSIBLE – UNTIL GOD TOOK CHARGE. There was no way it could happen, but then it did. Israel was the only nation in such captivity to ever return and rebuild. As they recalled their history they recognized that it was God who restored them and their fortunes. “…we were like those who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy.”