by John E. Thomas
Several years ago, Dawna and I visited a church plant near our home. It was the church’s first Sunday service, and we wanted to check them out.
The pastor spoke on Jesus being a man acquainted with sorrows—and then went on to explain how the Son of God was always miserable, never smiled, and suffered His whole earthly existence.
I was shocked! What had happened in this man’s life that all he could see when he looked at Jesus was grief? Dawna and I have prayed for him over the years because of the way his words impacted our hearts.
That may seem like an extreme example, but unfortunately it isn’t unusual. Because of the messages we’ve displayed to the world, many people think Christianity is a religion that isn’t allowed to have fun. Holiness is considered a “killjoy,” and if people enjoy something too much, it must be sinful! “Sinfully delicious,” as the expression goes.
But that is not the truth about our faith.
The Epic Joy of God
Religion can take something beautiful and turn it into rote and familiarity. It can twist portions of the precious story of Jesus until we end up missing a key piece—JOY.
Luke 2:10–12 is a famous passage in the Christmas story:
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” (ESV)
Joy for all people. The Oxford Dictionary defines joy as “feelings of great pleasure and happiness.”
When you think of Christianity, is that what you think of?
God Created Mankind for Pleasure
We were created to live in a perfect world where everything brought pleasure. Beauty filled creation, and the food was fabulous. God brought man and woman together in a garden and told them, “Be fruitful and multiply.” And this command was not a hardship for them; the very act that fulfilled it was something extremely pleasurable.
God didn’t intend for His children to have a boring, dry existence. He intended us for JOY, and Jesus came to restore that joy.
After the fall, mankind began to search for joy in the wrong things—in selfish pursuits and sinful activities. As our desires grew corrupted, we plummeted into small desires and lost sight of the higher senses God designed us to pursue.
In his book The Weight of Glory, C. S. Lewis succinctly describes the narrowness of human thought:
It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
You’re Invited into Joy
This Christmas, remember the angelic invitation to step into joy. Jesus has arrived on the scene, His work is complete, and the story He’s telling is “good news of great joy that will be for all people.”
Enjoy your family, good food, laughs around a cozy fire—but most of all, enjoy Him. Remember He is the source of it all. He created these things for your enjoyment, and He created you to be able to enjoy them.
Turn your joy into worship, and find His presence in the midst of your celebrations. Merry Christmas!