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  • Sonya Leigh Anderson

Unwrapping Joy

The following post was inspired by a talk I prepared for our HopeYouth Christmas gathering.

Photo from Unsplash

In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today in the city of David a Savior was born for you, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped tightly in cloth and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:8-12

I have a question for you. When you think of God do you picture joy? When you imagine Jesus is he a joyful person?

When the angel announced Jesus’ arrival, it was “good news of great joy.” Joy had arrived in the form of a newborn baby. As Christians we tend to focus a lot on things like love, peace, and faith. But how often do we think about joy? Do we consider joy to be one of our top priorities as God’s people? Is it something we deliberately and passionately pursue?

Here are a few verses that describe God’s joy: 

1 Chronicles 16:27—

Honor and majesty surround him;

    strength and joy fill his dwelling.

Zephaniah 3:17—

For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.

Psalm 16:11—

You will show me the way of life,

    granting me the joy of your presence

    and the pleasures of living with you forever.

God himself is a joyful being—and he wants us to share his joy. Actually, he wants us to represent his joy in the world. And if people in this world don’t think of God as being joyful, maybe it’s because his people aren’t doing a very good job of representing him.

Joy isn’t the same as fun, or pleasure, or happiness even. We seek fun and pleasure through entertainment, relationships, food, or activities. But these pleasures tend to be temporary, and they’re often unsatisfying. On the other hand, joy isn’t a temporary experience. Joy is deep and lasting. True joy fills us from the inside out and becomes part of who we are. We are joyful people.

Joy isn’t based on personality either. Sure there are some personality types that tend to be more upbeat… people who are naturally funny… people who tend to be more optimistic. I am by nature a rather serious person. I always have been. I prefer reverent moments and studious pursuits. But my serious nature does not keep me from being joyful. I can be thoughtful and joyful at the same time. 

Also, joy doesn’t depend on circumstances. In fact, the Bible tells us we can be joyful people even when life is hard. This doesn’t happen by faking it, or making up our mind to be joyful even when life is a struggle. Our joy is supernatural. It’s like a super power. Joy that’s impossible to explain lives inside us. It’s what some people call “defiant joy.” It’s joy that never gives up, no matter what. 

Joy is what we call a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). What this means is that we can’t produce these things in our lives by our own efforts. At least not the real thing. Maybe we can produce a little love, a little joy, a little goodness. But real and lasting fruit comes from the Holy Spirit who transforms our lives and turns us into fruitful people. This is what Jesus meant when he called himself “the vine.” 

"Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). 

Right after this comment Jesus went on to say, “I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” (John 15:11). 

Your JOY will overflow!! Good news of great joy. This is what Christmas is all about. Have you received Jesus’ gift of joy?

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