Over Thanksgiving Break, I had the opportunity to go to New York City with my family. It truly was a beautiful place during this Holiday Season- lights were strung from buildings, the tree was set up in Rockefeller Center, and there was a buzz in the air. Throughout all of the hustle and bustle of shopping, seeing shows, and people watching, I couldn’t help but be reminded of where my joy comes from in this season. Now, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely enjoyed the environment I was in, but I knew that environment was only a temporary buzz. In one month, lights will be taken down, the tree will be donated to a humanitarian cause, and people will resume their everyday routines that take place from January- November. But where does my permanent joy come from that will not change from season to season? Does it come from receiving gifts? Beating your brothers in a game of football (@Jacob @Christopher)? Christmas parties? 25 Days of Christmas on ABC Family (I refuse to call it “Freeform”)? Decorations? Family? Justin Bieber’s Deluxe Christmas Album? I would argue and say that all of those things are good and a lot of fun. However, at the end of the day, our eternal joy isn’t found in those things.
As the current Youth Minister at Northstar, I was able to share with our students a bit about these things. Last week, during our large group time of studying the Bible, we looked at the story of Simeon in Luke 2. Now, Simeon was an old man that was promised, by God, to see the Messiah born. As Simeon was lead to the Temple by God, Mary and Joesph were there to present Jesus the Messiah, as was Jewish tradition, to the Lord. Can you imagine, just for a moment, waiting your whole life for something that you’ve been promised? In our culture, waiting a week, a month, a year, or two years, feels like an eternity. We become impatient, frustrated, and even angry when we don’t get what we want or when things don’t go as we planned in our finite timeframe. However, here was Simeon, late in age, and he had waited his whole life for this moment. His whole life. He could have easily been caught up in the commotion of that time of the birth of Jesus. I’m sure there were debates over who Jesus was. Was he really the Messiah that had come to fulfill the prophecies talked about in the New Testament? I’m picturing an old-time “Pardon the Interruption” with a Skip Bayless and Steven A. Smith yelling at each other type of debate. Despite all of the commotion and buzz surrounding this occurrence, Simeon’s joy was rooted in one thing- that one thing was Jesus. When Simeon saw Jesus, “he took the child in his arms and praised God, saying,
“Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel (Luke 2:25-32,NLT).”
Yesterday, during our youth group meeting, we spent some more time looking into what joy was.
- Joy comes from our relationship with Jesus
- As a Christian, I have made the decision to follow Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior. This in no way means that I am perfect- I still make mistakes every single day, but I know that in those mistakes, times of despair, of regret, and times of happiness, I have an eternal joy in Jesus Christ. When I came to the point of realizing I was a sinner, broken, and could do nothing to earn my salvation, I came to a place of knowing I needed Jesus to fill that “God shaped hole” in my heart. When we receive Jesus into our lives, his Holy Spirit descends upon us and enters into our hearts. In fact, in Galatians 5:22-23, joy is listed as a fruit of the spirit. Unless we enter into a relationship with Jesus, we do not have his spirit within us, and we are unable to have an eternal joy.
- Joy comes from spending time with God
- As a kid, I was told to read my Bible, to pray, and be kind to others. When I was younger, I didn’t fully understand what any of those truly meant or why I was told to do those things. However, as I’ve become older, I’ve noticed that this joy that I received upon salvation needs to be fed on a daily basis. How am I supposed to claim to love Jesus without reading the Bible and getting know him? How am I supposed to have a life devoted to Him without constantly talking to him through prayer? As a Christian, reading your Bible can seem like a daunting task, I mean, come on, its’ the Word of God. It can feel distant, boring, or even crazy at times. However, as I’ve grown in my relationship with Jesus by spending time in his Word, I have grown to love him even more and trust what his Word is saying to me. His word and authority in my life is ultimate and unless I’m invested in what he has to say, my beliefs will be blown around by every cultural trend. To close this point, I will never forget what Francis Chan said at a camp I attended as a freshmen in high school in regard to reading our Bible: “don’t read to finish, read to change.”
- Joy comes from sharing this eternal hope and joy with others
- The Lord never intended for Christians to keep this message to themselves. If you are not a Christian and you are reading this article, imagine that you had the greatest thing in the world in your possession. You had something that you wanted everyone else to have or know about. What would you do? Would you keep it to yourself? Or could you simply not help but sharing it with others? As a Christian, The Lord has called Christians to share this hope and joy through our words and actions.
- What Joy is not
- Joy is not circumstantial. As humans, we experience many highs as well as many lows. We suffer the unexpected or expected loss of friends and family. We celebrate the new job promotion, raise, test score, or athletic achievement. We go through heartbreaking relationships. All of these things are a part of life and can be either really happy, really sad, or somewhere in between. Amidst the ups and downs of life, joy in Christ is never changing. The Bible promises that if we have invited Jesus into our lives, he is never going to leave us. We don’t have to worry about our eternity because we know where we will be and we know what we are living for.
I encourage you during this Christmas season to take a step back during the busyness and think about where your joy comes from. I’m not saying that time with family and friends, Christmas parties, or even Justin Bieber’s Christmas Album are bad things-no, they are all wonderful things! One day all of those things will fade and people will let you down. The Christmas decorations will be taken down, the Spotify playlist will be changed, and presents will be forgotten. So, Where does your joy come from?