Joy Is Born This Day
Dr. Jim Denison
This is the Advent week of joy. “Joy” is most simply defined as “contentment which transcends circumstances.” “Happiness” is based on “happenings;” joy transcends them.
Would you like real joy today? Where will you go to find it?
Many of us will try possessions, especially at Christmas.
I’ve been keeping a file on unusual products for sale this Christmas season. Do you know someone who needs a new cell phone? Vertu has one for only $19,450. New entertainment? There’s a plethora of new video games, which will help Americans spend a total of $10 billion on video games this year. Help around the house? Consider a mobile robot driven by a palm pilot. New technology? Give some eyeglasses which display e-mail and surf the Web.
Perhaps your wife would like some special clothing. Buy her a jewel-encrusted set of underwear from Victoria’s Secret for only $10 million. Maybe your husband is a James Bond fan. Buy him the same car 007 drives in his new movie, for only $255,000. Unfortunately, unlike the car in the movie, his won’t disappear. But maybe he’ll have joy, at least until next year’s model appears.
Can people give you joy which transcends circumstances? They need joy as much as you do. Position? It won’t be enough for long. Performance? Until your next performance.
Today you can experience joy—true, meaningful contentment transcending your every circumstance, no matter what it is. But only if you’ll make this story your own.
Have you ever noticed that Luke gives twice as much coverage to the shepherds as to their Savior (1-7 vs. 8-20)? Let’s see why.
Seek joy in Bethlehem
“When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about” (v. 15).
The shepherds “said”—the word indicates a repeated and continuous action. They began talking to each other, all at once, as excited as the women who attended Janet’s first baby shower.
“Let us go to Bethlehem”—the Greek indicates that they had a distance to travel, but they didn’t care. It also contains a small Greek word untranslatable in English, a word which conveys a tremendous sense of urgency. “Let us right now get up and hurriedly go” would render the idea.
“And see this thing that has happened”—the birth was a fact of history. Something shepherds could see. No one in the first century, not even the worst critics of the Christian faith, thought to deny that Jesus was a real person born in a real place.
“Which the Lord has told us about.” They know this is from God, and of God.
King David, the man for whom Bethlehem was called the “city of David,” once said to the Lord: “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psalm 16:11). “Joy in your presence,” in the presence of God. These shepherds don’t know it yet, but that’s exactly what they are about to find in the cave, at the feed trough, in the most unlikely place. Joy in the presence of God.
There is nowhere else to find it.
Job 20:4-5: “Surely you know how it has been from of old, ever since man was placed on the earth, that the mirth of the wicked is brief, the joy of the godless lasts but a moment.” Joy is found only with God. It is a gift only God can give.
Zig Ziglar writes about seeing a well-known interviewer and commentator on television. The discussion was about the death of comedian Freddie Prinz. Mr. Prinz had taken his own life, and the commentator was asked, “Do you know of any other superstar in athletics, music, entertainment, the television industry, or movies who might also be in danger of either deliberately or accidentally taking his own life?” After a moment’s reflection, she answered, “I don’t know of anyone who is famous in these fields who is not in danger of either deliberately or accidentally taking his own life, because I don’t know a single one who is happy” (Zig Ziglar, Raising Positive Kids in a Negative World, rev. ed. [Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2002] 207).
Would you like to find true joy this morning? Then go to Bethlehem. Do as the shepherds did. Travel any distance. Get up and go there now. You say you can’t go there? It’s too far? It’s not safe these days? Here’s the good news: you don’t need to go to the city of David; the Son of David has come to Dallas. To you. He’s waiting for you, with joy for your heart. Seek it from him. And from him alone. And “the joy of the Lord will be your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
Find the Son of God
“So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger” (v. 16).
They “found” him—the original word describes a search in order to find. The went from stable to stable until they found this child lying in a manger, a feed trough. And then they knew they had found the Savior, the Messiah, the Lord. They found the Son of God.
Note that they just walked uninvited into the cave which was his birthing room. I never visit a newborn baby without checking first with the nurse, then washing my hands, then knocking at the door. These rough, dirty, smelly field hands just rushed right in. Jesus was born in a place which had no doors, no locks, no nurses, no way to keep people out. He was born there on purpose, for anyone can come into a cave. Anyone can come to the Christ.
And find in him true joy.
The joy of salvation is found only in Jesus: “We rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (Romans 5:11).