|photos credit: Pexels|
This fall I realized how much I like Christmas. I used to get annoyed by the holiday ads begging for your money. The self-centered kids writing letters to Santa begging for hundreds of dollars of useless stuff. The flashy lights, crowded stores, and lack of focus on Jesus.
But this time, I saw more. Or perhaps I see more, because I'm still learning.
Christmas draws people together. Friends and family are reunited over long distances as they celebrate. Strangers walk with a smile, and their faces light up with you offer a sincere, "Merry Christmas." Lights deck the nighttime horizon making little children laugh and offering something to warm your heart in the midst of the night.
For those of you who are celebrating the advent season, the word of this week is χαρά.
χαρά - Chara (pronounced khar-ah'): joy, gladness, a source of joy
Joy is a beautiful part of a Believer's life. It's not just a fruit of the Spirit that we long to have. In Christ, we have Joy.
The book of Philippians describes true Joy. It doesn't come through having everything we want - but through looking out for the interests of others (Phil. 2:3-4). It doesn't come through gain - but through sacrifice (Phil 2:5-11).
The apostle Paul wrote,
Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.
Christmas is a time of joy, but does the joy last? Happiness is a fleeting emotion that comes and goes like a breeze on the wind. Joy is deeper - a heart attitude that lasts because of the hope we have in Jesus.
When we're scared, Joy says that Jesus is still strong. When we face sickness or death, Joy assures us that Jesus is the worker of miracles and the keeper of our breath. When someone betrays us, Joy holds us tight in Jesus' arms.
"As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love ... These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full."
Chara is the decision to trust in darkness, believe in the storm, and love despite unfaithfulness. Because Jesus is enough.
Recently I read a book about Christians during the time of Nero. They were burned at the stake, thrown to wild beasts, and separated from loved ones forever. But as they faced death and humiliation, they sang praise to God. The martyrs looked past earth and up towards heaven where their Savior was awaiting them with a crown of glory.
It's easy to be happy in the beauty of Christmas. Yet Joy is so much more. It's something that will thrive during winter break and continue when school starts back up. It will blossom during busy times and be strong when we are weak.
Christian joy is a profound decision of faith and hope in the power of Jesus’ own life and love.
Let's follow Philippians and "rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!" (Phil. 4:4) Let's thrive in the promises of Christmas that Jesus loves us so much that He came to earth as a babe. But when the new year comes, let's continue to praise God because "His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations" (Psalm 100:5).
God is always good. You are always loved.
So let's rejoice!
(ps) I was inspired to write this post because of a short film I watched about the meaning of Joy. You can view it for yourself here, and I encourage you to do so: Word Study: Chara - Joy