As Christmas fast approaches, the one question on my mind is : “What will this season bring for those of us celebrating?”
For some, Christmas is a time of happiness. It is a time when people come together in celebration of Christ’s humble beginnings. Some have no problem making new sentimental memories for the book. Still, for others, it can be a painful time. There are a number of financial, mental, and emotional stressors that may surface during the holidays. Not to mention, the rise of illness and COVID infections that will no doubt come with the winter season.
All things considered, I would venture to say that there is just as much potential for strife, anxiety, and depression, as there is for peace, love, and joy during the Christmas season.
So how do we combat this? Is it possible to find joy no matter our circumstances?
My answer would be yes.
I believe the solution is sprinkled throughout various places in scripture. Jesus in particular was known for giving away his ‘secrets’. He knew more than any human after all, and he was more than willing to provide us with answers. During his short time on earth, he left us with a multitude of meaningful words, encounters, and conversations that we can learn from. One way that he did this was through the use of parables, or metaphorical stories in order to make his point. A specific example of this is found in the book of Luke.
Luke 8:4-10– One day Jesus told a story in the form of a parable to a large crowd that had gathered from many towns to hear him:
“A farmer went out to plant his seed. As he scattered it across his field, some seed fell on a footpath, where it was stepped on, and the birds ate it. Other seed fell among rocks. It began to grow, but the plant soon wilted and died for lack of moisture. Other seed fell among thorns that grew up with it and choked out the tender plants. Still other seed fell on fertile soil. This seed grew and produced a crop that was a hundred times as much as had been planted!” When he had said this, he called out, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”
His disciples asked him what this parable meant. He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables to teach the others so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled:
‘When they look, they won’t really see.
When they hear, they won’t understand.’
Fortunately, Jesus goes on to further explain his illustration.
Luke 8:11-15“-This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is God’s word. The seeds that fell on the footpath represent those who hear the message, only to have the devil come and take it away from their hearts and prevent them from believing and being saved. The seeds on the rocky soil represent those who hear the message and receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they believe for a while, then they fall away when they face temptation. The seeds that fell among the thorns represent those who hear the message, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they never grow into maturity.
And the seeds that fell on the good soil represent honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest.”
It may not be the time of year for a ‘crop harvest’ in the natural sense, but it’s never the wrong time to produce a spiritual harvest.
While ‘happiness’ is temporary and dependent on ideal conditions, joy can be experienced on a much deeper level. See, the amazing thing about joy, is that it isn’t dependent on the nature of our circumstances. Instead, it is dependent on the condition of our heart.
Joy is a product of our faith, not our good fortune.
And yet, so often we forget this.
Caught up in the cares of this world, we lose sight of the simple yet life-changing message that Jesus once brought to our attention. We forget our first-love; the one who first redeemed us. And in doing so, we sacrifice the childlike joy that we once had. We forfeit the faith that once kept us determined and hopeful.
According to Jesus, what truly makes the difference between joy that is fleeting and joy that lasts, is our roots. We may hear the message of Jesus and ‘recieve it with joy’. But how many of us take the time to go deeper? To develop the roots we need in order for our faith to stand the test of time?
The truth is, very few people do.
And that’s a shame, because what we experience at the moment of our conversion can only scratch the surface of what living life with Jesus is truly like. There is no end to what will discover when we develop the intimacy with Christ. When we offer up our hearts and our minds to be examined on a regular basis. When we make the decision to stay grounded in God’s truths, no matter what tomorrow brings.
Many times we aren’t even aware of our own slow fade. We don’t realize that the distractions around us are slowly taking us farther and farther away from the peace that Christ has to offer. That is why it is so important that we keep our eyes on what matters. That is why we need remind ourselves of God’s truths, even when it hurts. Even when it is inconvenient. Not just today, but tomorrow, and the next day. We need permanent faith.
That is where our joy is found.
I don’t know what Christmas will bring for you. Maybe it will go the way that you planned, and maybe it won’t. But either way, my hope is that it will be a day for you to re-discover a sense of childlike joy. Joy that comes from genuine hope in our savior. Joy that comes from believing.
If you are struggling with stress or anxiety; with fear or depression…Don’t allow that to distract you. Don’t give up. Instead, realign your focus. Fix your gaze on the one who came to redeem you; the one who loved you enough to lower himself in the form of a human and ultimately sacrificed himself for you.
Remind yourself of the hope that comes from Christ, his amazing story of a promise fulfilled. Remind yourself of his words; of the gift that he gave you though salvation. Wait patiently for God’s promises; for your harvest. Whatever that may be, trust that he will bring it to pass. And more importantly, depend on him to keep you joyful until it does.
You don’t have to live in stress because your holidays are not ideal. You don’t have to live in defeat because of broken relationships or situations. Turn to Jesus, and allow him to reveal himself in ways you never expected. Read his word and develop the roots you need. The roots that will help you stay strong in times of hardship.
Let Christ encourage you with the peace, love, and wisdom you need to make it through.
Let him give you joy that lasts.
Did you know that in addition to Sunday services, we offer a complete Pre-school through 12th grade Christian education program?