What have been the greatest moments in your life so far? When you look back over the canvas of time and rehearse your journey, what moments cause a deep smile to appear on your face?
Personally, I have been blessed with several amazing memories I’m sure to recall the rest of my life: my wedding to my best friend, the births of my three wonderful children, my opportunity to meet and visit with President Ronald Reagan, the first Sunday of our new church in Fairfield, and so many more. Simply stated, I am blessed.
Wouldn’t it be great if every moment of our life could be that spectacular? If every single second was filled with overflowing happiness? Maybe yes or maybe no, but the reality is that it’s a moot point. It will never happen.
And maybe that’s a good thing. Because it’s the not so spectacular times that make us appreciative of the special occasions. The negative realities cause us to be thankful for the delightful recollections. One helps balance the other.
But so many times in our lives it’s easy to allow ourselves to be ruled by the “ups and downs” of our wandering emotions, allowing life’s circumstances to dictate the reading on our happiness meter. It’s a cruel reality that we won’t always feel on top of the world, and yet somehow we truly believe we “deserve” better than what we currently enjoy. We hear it often and perhaps say it ourselves: “I deserve to be happy.” “I deserve to have more.” “I deserve . . . ” Really?
Christians know from God’s Word we deserve nothing except punishment for our sin. But because Jesus came at Christmas to eventually pay the ultimate price for our transgressions, we are now free – not to be happy, but for God to make us holy. And in God’s great process of changing us into the image of His Son, He gives us what we need. Not necessarily to bring us happiness, but so we can always experience joy.
In Matthew 2, we encounter an ancient world egregiously enslaved under harsh Roman oppression. After years of bondage, suddenly a special star appears. Israeli shepherds going about their regular responsibilities on another regular night had their spirits instantly lifted.
“When they saw the star, they were filled with joy!”
They found joy. Why? Not because the Romans were suddenly defeated, but because the promise of the Father was being revealed in flesh just a short distance away in a stable filled with farm animals. The found joy – not in their circumstance but in their Savior.
Everywhere we see people (and maybe even ourselves) searching for happiness in relationships, possessions, religion, entertainment, government and more. Eventually we will all realize happiness is eternally fleeting but true and lasting joy comes only from above. Real joy isn’t changed by our situation. It can’t be altered by our emotions. It’s doesn’t disappear in the middle of life’s uncertainty. It never evaporates or fades away.
When we try to understand the nature of God – who He is and what’s He’s already done for us – and realize the Creator of the universe sent Jesus, not only FOR us but to be WITH us, how can we not be overwhelmed with great joy?
I pray the excitement of the holiday season remains in our hearts all year long as we recognize and honor the Giver of life’s greatest moments and experience His joy in our hearts.
“Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them . . . “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the city of David! (Luke 2:9-11)
Jason Yarbrough is the pastor of Mars Hill Church and principal of Mars Hill Christian School, both in Fairfield.