On the eve, of the eve of the eve, of Christmas, I feel like a marathoner stumbling toward the finish line – at mile 20. I don’t know how many years I’ve felt this way, but it’s been at least the last 10. Something about having a child in the mix changes Christmas up a good bit. Of course, traveling to visit family and being married to a pastor doesn’t always contribute peace or rest, either.
This season is described with words like Joy, Peace, Light, Merry, Hope, and Happy… but how many of us truly experience it that way?
As a child, I always got caught up in the wonder of the lights, parties, fun food… and presents! But I was sheltered from the more difficult and stressful aspects of the holiday, like finances, redundancies, unmet expectations, unrealized longings, tarnished hope, and bittersweet memories… things that now challenge my ability to even see the joy, peace, and hope – let alone feel it.
Sadly, I struggle with “feeling” joy. My head and heart know the gravity and beauty of the message… but feeling JOY in the middle of the stress of the season, is a challenge for me. I “feel” like I’m going through the motions.
I “feel” like it would be nice if this season were longer (more time to slow down and enjoy) or shorter (just get it over with). Isaiah told us (v. 3-4) the promised Messiah would come, and the joy of the people would be like 1) a bountiful harvest, and 2) dividing the spoils of war, and 3) like the shattering of an oppressor’s yoke!
This isn’t trivial joy.
This is JOY!
Freedom from oppression, miraculous provision and a peace that only comes when every trampling boot and every bloody garment are burned as fuel for the fire (v 5). Suddenly, the ugly color of my Christmas lights (LEDs are just ugly), and the fact that Target cancelled my son’s Christmas pajamas (without telling me!), seem the worst kind of petty.
Suddenly, the strife and stress are put in perspective. The JOY he’s talking about probably looked a little like the faces of those streaming over the crumbling Berlin wall… and I remember those faces. The unsurmountable oppression of sin has been broken in the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the Messiah! JOY!
May we step back from the (ugly) Christmas lights, nasty traffic, unmet expectations, tarnished hope and bittersweet memories, and truly rejoice in the beautiful reminder of exactly what Christ has done for us by taking on the form of a servant and being born in the likeness of men…so we could know the JOYOUS freedom from eternal oppression.
I pray you find His JOY this Christmas, and that you rest in His peace and hope, offered freely and without reservation.