People seemed keen to begin Christmas preparations much earlier than usual this year. Did you notice? This was being discussed on the radio on my drive to Coomera Anglican College one morning several weeks ago. Why do you think this is?
It seems pretty likely that we are feeling drawn to celebration and fun times with family and friends more than ever after the hard work of navigating our way through this year.
In our house, we’re usually lucky to have our tree up by the first week in December. But not this year! I made time to put up our Christmas tree in late November with our 5 year old grandson, who was staying with us. The next morning, when I came out to get ready for the day, I found that Tom had switched on the lights already. It was a lovely sight, and brought me great joy!
But do we have to wait until Christmas for joy?
Did Mary have to wait until Jesus was born to know the joy of carrying the promised one?
The promise we have is that because God is with us, we can experience the gift of joy amidst all that life throws at us. Even in the deep sadness of grief or difficulties it is possible to know joy – not a smiley, happy, fake joy, but rather a peaceful, comforting real joy, since all is not lost and the sun will rise again tomorrow. God’s presence is enough.
This means there are still good things in life to enjoy and people to love, and meaning and purpose in what matters most, even though it’s really important that we grieve and lament for a time because loss matters.
But you know what? There are joy thieves out there even in the good times, like the Grinch that stole Christmas! So we need to beware.
What robs our joy?
How about the exhausting list of activities we set ourselves each day? Usually impossible in reality. And especially impossible when we’re trying to enjoy time with family and friends.
Or the relentless standards of perfection we place on ourselves and others?
Or comparing ourselves with others, when really, Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You. Thanks for your wisdom Dr Seuss! The world really needs a more you-er you.
What else robs our joy?
Being distracted. Think of our addiction to social media.
Wanting more than we need. Think of our addiction to shopping.
Being cup half empty people, when more often than not, our cup is well over half full!
Holding on to grudges, when we are not willing to begin the journey of forgiveness.
Feeling trapped in a relationship, when there might be choices we haven’t made simply because it’s difficult to make hard choices. Yet choices they are.
Getting stuck in the past and being anxious about the future.
So, how can we hold onto our joy?
One way is by remembering what the angel said to the shepherds:
“Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you (not the special ones, the educated ones, the successful ones, the beautiful ones) good news of great joy for all the people. To you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord”.
The Saviour, the one who brings salvation is here. Salvation is an over-arching theme in Luke’s gospel. It means wholeness (rather than saving from some kind of eternal punishment). The Messiah, the anointed one, was the one who would bind up wounds, help the blind to see, and bring life and light in place of death and darkness.
The Messiah, the Christ, is with us today.
This is indeed good news of great joy for all people, and a great reason to throw ourselves fully into celebrating all that is good in our lives, especially this Christmas, even though we may still be journeying with very real challenges.
God’s presence comforts, heals and makes whole.
God’s presence offers us the gift of joy.