We hear more about joy during the Christmas season than perhaps any other time of the year. As G. K. Chesterton said, “Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian.” But what is our secret joy? The holidays can become so busy that the joy of the season feels elusive. How can we find more joy for our families this Advent?
Psalm 16:11 states, “In your presence is fullness of joy.” This truth is simple. Joy is found by spending time in God's presence, delighting in him. But how do we enter into his presence to find this joy? Sometimes the blur of busy family schedules, particularly around Christmas, presses in and keeps us from entering all that he has for us, including a joyful disposition. Keeping this in mind, one activity that can help develop joy in the midst of Christmas burnout is spending time worshiping as a family. Advent worship time—whether at home as a nuclear family or corporately as congregational worship—is a powerful way to draw into God's presence and to find our joy!
The Psalmist tells us to enter His gates with thanksgiving in our heart, and to enter his courts with praise (Psalm 100:4). But when you’re weary and tired, running from one event to the next, thankfulness can get lost in the shuffle. If this sounds familiar, take some time to daily record those things for which you are grateful. Whether you do this on your own or as a family, you will find yourself overwhelmed with gratitude and filled with joy that will extend beyond the season. Your failures will no longer seem important. Thanksgiving should not be just a holiday before Christmas, but rather a way of life. Spend time thanking God for his many blessings this Advent and throughout the year that follows.
When we focus on ourselves and our inadequacies we feel insignificant and timid. There is no joy in that! No one feels like a perfect parent, spouse, or child. We all have flaws. On the other hand, when we focus on being grateful for all that God has done in our lives and on his goodness, our perspectives change! Focusing on the Giver of every good gift is the key that unlocks the door to joy. When we are mindful of God and what he has done we don’t have room in our hearts for fear and anxiety.
Satan wants to steal our joy because he wants to steal our strength. Nehemiah 8:10 in the New Living Translation says it this way, “Don't be dejected and sad, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!" Our spiritual strength is directly connected to our joy. This Scripture hints that joy is a choice. When we choose gratitude, we choose his presence. When we choose his presence, we choose joy. We can choose to focus on the stresses of the holiday or on the joy that came into the world through a manger.
Joy is something deeper than happiness because happiness is determined by outer circumstances. Joy is determined by what is happening on the inside. Best-selling author Steven Furtick says it this way, “My joy is not determined by what happens TO me, but what Christ is doing IN me and THROUGH me.” When we focus on negative things around us, we disable joy. There are times when your circumstances are no fault of your own and more than you can control. But we can always rejoice in what God is doing in and through us! We can control our responses to difficulties. But if all we think about is how hard life can be, we will never experience the joy that is set before us. James 1 reminds us to count it all joy when we enter into trials and tribulations. We know the end of the story, so no matter what trial you find yourself in today, know that we win because Jesus paid a great price for our victory! This is the place of true, deep joy; the place where you discover that it all works out for your good anyway.
Find your joy today in God's presence. Make a joyful noise unto the Lord! Gladly pronounce the goodness of God in your life! It will strengthen you and your gratitude will usher you into his presence multiplying your joy as you focus on God and his goodness.
Joy to the world! The Lord is come. Let earth receive her King!
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra