The list of Christmas activities and traditions that I enjoy each year keeps me entertained from Thanksgiving weekend until Christmas Day. From decorating and baking, to reading through the Christmas story, to enjoying special moments with my family, these are all a part of what it means for me to experience Christmas. But these are things to enjoy – they are not JOY itself. And when I flip through my memories like a photo album there are very few moment where I can honestly say that I have experienced true JOY.
It was several years ago that I committed to take my first missions trip. I was excited about the opportunity to use my gifts and talents in a new way. And the adventure of it all was quite exhilarating as it had been years since I had traveled abroad. I was ready to get away with God on the other side of the world.
The “work” we would be doing was teaching. We would be the teaching team for a Women’s Leadership Conference. The host ministry provided the venue, the main speaker, the call to action, and invited the attendees, we just needed to bring two days worth of teachings on a specific topic and some creative elements. Humorously, all of this would be facilitated through translators. The opportunity to encourage and equip these female leaders in a country where females are often marginalized was an honor.
The trip took 10 months of preparation for me from the time I submitted my application to when we boarded our 20 hour flight to the Eastern Hemisphere. When I think back to all that I was a part of I can remember several ways that I experienced true JOY during this season.
The JOY of serving The LORD using the gifts and talents He has deposited within me.
The JOY of serving others in ways I had never experienced before. And…
The JOY of sharing the “good news” with women who wanted to partner with me on my trip.
While I didn’t necessarily need to fund raise to pay for my trip, as a Team we were asked to sponsor some of the ladies who would be attending the conference we were teaching at. Some of these ladies would be traveling for days to attend this conference – which could very well be the opportunity of a lifetime for them. So, I rolled up my sleeves and put together a few events to raise money to contribute to these ladies expenses.
There was one event I recall in particular, it was hosted by a dear friend. She had invited several neighbors, some of which had possibly never heard the “good news” of a Savior being born to save the world. So, I shared briefly with them why I would be going on the trip and took the opportunity to share the Gospel with them as well. I remember specifically referencing the JOY I felt at my point of salvation.
I was compelled to share my story so that they had the opportunity to experience true JOY.
It was a chance to be like the angels in the Christmas story who shared the “good news” with the shepherds. It’s up to the one’s who have a fuller view of God’s plan to share it with others. It was the angel who said “I bring you good news of great JOY” because the angel was able to see God’s work, not the shepherds, all they could see was the angel.
15 When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”
16 They hurried off and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the feeding trough. 17 After seeing them, they reported the message they were told about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary was treasuring up all these things[j] in her heart and meditating on them. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard, just as they had been told.
JOY is what we experience when we can recognize God has extended His favor toward us, and JOY is what we feel when we share in His work in the world with others.
That’s why the angel pronounced “I bring you good news of great joy…” because the angel could see God extending His favor to mankind. There needed to be a messenger who had the right vantage point of the situation. But what about these shepherds… who received this incredible message, how did they benefit?
Well, they had to believe what they heard enough to investigate it, right? And when they did they realized it was true. Then they themselves became the messengers, just as the angels had been for them. And so the spreading of the “good news” goes for millennia until at one point it reached our own ears.
This is how we spread JOY. This is how we experience JOY. This is the JOY of the season.
For Further Reading and Reflection:
Read John 15: 9-17
Reflect on the ways this passage teaches us how we experience JOY.
Pray about who you can share the “good news” of Christmas with this season. Make a list of people who you can invite to church services or ways you can love others by serving them.
Commit to add true JOY to your holiday.
JOY to the world, the LORD is come! Let earth receive her King!