Life Notes—December 9, 2010
When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. Luke 2:17-18
Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas! We want those we love to be happy at Christmas, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting happiness, right? I devote a good deal of effort seeking happiness. Yet, nothing in the Christmas story speaks of happiness. In fact, the first Christmas probably was not a happy time at all. Mary and Joseph made the long, difficult journey to Bethlehem only to be unable to find a place to stay. They were forced to find shelter with farm animals, likely in a dark, smelly, cold cave. And in that harshest of places, Mary gave birth to Jesus. Indeed, Christmas today is anything but a happy time for many. People without homes or shelter or enough food. People who are lonely or ill. Victims of violence or addictions. People succumbing to the over-the-top expectations of the commercialized mega-event we have allowed Christmas to become.
Although the Christmas story does not speak of happiness, it does speak of “great joy.” Should we be wishing each other joy for Christmas, rather than happiness? I believe so, and here is why: Joy has roots. When the presents have been opened; when the food has been consumed; when family and friends have vacated the premises; when unrealistic expectations have gone unmet (again); happiness dissipates.
Those seeking joy this holiday season will have to work for it. Like so many things worth having, joy cannot be purchased in a store nor obtained by cooking through the night. It is not found at the “best” Christmas parties or by having our homes decorated just right. Joy will not be found under the Christmas tree. Finding joy requires a completely different focus of effort and expenditure of resources. The roots of joy are in faith, and we must plant ourselves deeply in a life unseen to allow joy to grow and prosper. Joy grows as we weather the ups and downs of life through time and still proclaim life as amazingly good, albeit sometimes unpleasant.
So yes, I wish you the Joy of Christmas. Don’t, however, be too quick to thank me. Finding joy requires the carving out of significant quiet time to absorb the true essence of the season. Expect to miss much of what Christmas has become, in return for gaining a measure of what Christmas truly is. Expect a Savior and, over time, expect a lasting joy that no earthly distraction can diminish.
The theme for this third Sunday of Advent is Joy. Tom will be preaching downtown. Life worship is at 9:40 in Brady Hall; traditional worship in the sanctuary is at 8:30 and 11:00. Mitch will preach at the west campus, where worship is at 9:00 and 11:00. The sermon title at both campuses is “Embracing the Light,” based on Luke 2:15-20.
Come home to worship this Sunday. Establish roots of joy with us this Christmas.
Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator