The Christmas season is considered a time of great joy. We often celebrate by singing hymns like “Joy to the World,” or songs with lyrics including, “…Tidings of comfort and joy.” We use the joyful term, “Merry Christmas” when greeting others this season. And, we often feel joy from our traditions of lights, decorations, music, and even the jolly old elf, himself, Santa Clause. Christmas offers many opportunities for joy…Until it does not.
Pain of Loss Magnified
For many, Christmas can be one of the most painful times of the year. For those who suffer the pain of loss through death, divorce, or estrangement, that pain is magnified during this season. For those who are separated by distance, the separation is felt more keenly during the holidays. When there is a time in which everyone around us is joyful, and the expectation of the season is for us, ourselves, to show joy, those who find themselves in the crushing pains of life can experience especially more difficult emotions about their circumstances during Christmas.
Coincidentally, what makes Christmas so joyful is that this holiday is centered around pain. Jesus was born in the most difficult of circumstances. Not only was Mary pregnant and unmarried, she and Joseph were also required to take a difficult trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem while approaching her time of delivery. There is the obvious pain of childbirth she endured, made exponentially harder by the uncomfortable, unsanitary conditions of the manger, her only option of a birth place for her child. Jesus himself was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” He “had no place to lay His head.” He was “despised and rejected” by people. He was misunderstood, falsely accused, betrayed, arrested, beaten, denied, deserted, and killed. Yet, His birth and His life are centered on joy…. our joy!
The Gift Of Joy
Christmas is a time of joy precisely because we live in a world of pain, as it is a time to celebrate God entering into our pain. He has experienced our loneliness, rejection, and desperation. He did not come as a privileged person who lived a life of ease. He took on flesh, came to this broken world, and experienced the fullness of our pain, all to give us the gift of JOY.
Do not be confused: Joy is not the feeling of happiness one feels only when life is good. It is not dependent on circumstances or something we must work to accomplish. Joy is a supernatural wellspring of faith that enables us to embrace our loneliness, pain, and sorrow, and look through it with hope that the pain will not destroy us. Joy is a reality from the Father that says, “I am here and I am not going away,” no matter our circumstances.
Joy is a supernatural gift that God gave us by sending His Son to Earth to be born in a manger.
Joy remains because Jesus promised to never leave us nor forsake us, and he has fulfilled that promise by overcoming the world and all of its pain. “Joy to the world, the Lord is come. Let earth receive her King. Let every heart prepare Him room, and heaven and nature sing.” Hallelujah.