An Early Christmas Offer

In our house, we start into the Christmas music a little early for some people – maybe even my wife. She would prefer we wait until Thanksgiving, while I, on the other hand, like to break out the ho-ho-ho’s shortly after Labor Day. So, like a good couple, we compromise. October 31st is Opening Day for Jingle Bells, Deck the Halls, Rudolf, and Adeste Fideles. And this year, we have something special to add to the mix. I wrote a book.

It started with my wife. Since the kids were little, we have read a Christmas devotional every night in December. We used the same devotional year after year. Then a few years ago, my wife suggested that a little variety might be in order, so we hunted around and found something different. Actually, several somethings. We read each of them in turn. Then, last year we saw a brand-new December devotional on the market, which we snatched up and put to work.

Since this Christmas tradition blessed our family, we decided to give a devotional to the members of our church. While hunting through the various options, my wife threw out a casual suggestion – as wives are wont to do: “You should write one yourself.” 

Next thing you know, I was waking up early in the morning like a man on a mission. I sat down to see if I had thirty-one ideas for devotional material. Then, I started writing. The fever hit hard. I finished most of the book in December last year, edited as a man possessed, and voila! out came this book of mine, which I boldly present to you for consideration:

Join the Triumph of the Skies!

Christmas acts like a magnifying glass. The hard-hearted turn to Ebenezer Scrooge; family problems take on a new life; financial woes pinch harder; daily chaos turns to tumult. But Christmas offers us a fantastic opportunity to enlarge a few great things. A giving heart has rich opportunities. A generous spirit shows itself in big ways. Delight in Christ will have a feast of fat things. Family life will be richly blessed.

In our home, we always wanted Christmas to magnify what we considered vital to the good health of our home. So we planned many unique features for the Christmas season, mostly dreamed up and executed by my wife. And one of those, as I mentioned, was our annual nightly devotional routine. We had so much fun rehearsing Christ’s glory in Christmas from a Biblical perspective that we can’t wait to get started on it again this year. 

But this year, we wanted to invite you to join the fun. So we have assembled a book of 31 devotionals that cover the Christmas story’s entirety (with maybe an exception or two) – everything from angels to mangers to Bethlehem to Santa Claus to Hallmark movies to Christmas cranks to Simeon and Anna. We didn’t leave Herod out either.

Join the Triumph of the Skies! is available through our publisher at Xulon Press. It is available on Amazon and in a Kindle edition (public immediately). You can find it at Barnes and Noble, which also has an e-book edition. You could get it on Apple iBooks. And you can get it from me. If you ask real nice, I’ll give you a discount and a puppy (just kidding about the discount puppy!). Seriously, I’ll give you a deal. 

Churches and bookstores and anyone who wants to order more than five copies can contact me directly for a bonus discount. I’ll treat you right. 

So, let the buying frenzy begin. Go ahead and stuff some stockings with this book. Give it to your friends and neighbors and relatives. Give it to your local Scrooge and all the Karens on your Christmas list. Buy a case and store it in a dusty place for the next twenty years. Buy it for your good friend Holli Reath. Read it out loud at night, gathered around the Christmas tree. And may it enrich your celebration of Christ this year and many years to come.

Christ’s Joy Remaining in Me

These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. (John 15:11)

Christmas was a week ago, so by now you realize that you won’t be having that classic Hallmark Christmas this year either.  Christmas can be a very miserable time, especially if you are one who thinks that Christmas will solve all your problems. Too many believe the rot that Christmas has this mystical power of reconciling family members, healing diseases, and restoring happiness.

The popularity of Hallmark movies offers nearly irrefutable proof that we love to be sentimental.  We crave that perfect Christmas joy. But if we put too much stock in the trappings and the window dressings of Christmas, we set ourselves up for a big disappointment.  So, if you are experiencing the “Christmas blues” a week after Christmas is over, you might want to consider what I am saying.

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The Fullness of Christ’s Joy

Hebrews 1:8-9 tells us that God anointed Christ with the oil of gladness above His fellows.

But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.

We can learn the character of Christ’s joy from this text. One thing we learn is the abundance of it — His joy is above His fellows — Jesus Christ has more joy than any other person.  “Jesus Christ is the happiest being in the universe.”[1]  Does that sound too trite to you?  If so, it is only the fault of our language and the way we use the word “happy.” To say that Jesus is the happiest being in the universe is anything but trite. More on that in a moment.

We also learn the fullness of Christ’s joy.  He has all the joy that can be had.  To apply our definition, He has a full and perfect satisfaction in Himself as the 2nd person of the Godhead, and a full and perfect delight in His own will as God.  Whenever the Bible speaks of fullness of joy, it is speaking of the joy that Christ has – a joy that the saints of God can look forward to someday when we finally enter into the joy of the Lord.

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Fullness of Joy Is Found in Christ

Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. (Psalm 16:11)

What is the object of your joy? If you answer that it is “yourself,” you would be guilty of a terrible conceit. Yet, the object of Jesus Christ’s joy is most certainly Himself, as there is nothing higher for Jesus to delight in or to enjoy than Himself.

The joy of Jesus Christ consists of an absolute satisfaction in Himself and a delight and joy in Himself.  I repeat what I said in an earlier post: that God has a complete happiness and satisfaction with Himself and with His will, and at the same time a delight in that will.[1]

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The Unsurpassed Joy of Jesus

The Bible overflows with the joy of God.

Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. (Hebrews 1:8-9)

Jesus has more joy than any other being.  Surely that points to the fact of His joy.  Psalm 16 strengthens this conclusion.

I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

I am not saying anything profound when I say that if Jesus were moody or gloomy or sullen rather than full of joy, there could not be pleasures forevermore at His right hand.[1] We could never expect to have more joy than our creator – and heaven could only be as happy as God is.

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The Unspeakable Joy of God

But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.

Hebrews 1:8-9

Consider for a moment the unspeakable joy of God. Hebrews 1:8-9 tells us that “God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.”  The text is speaking of Jesus.  God the Father anointed God the Son with the oil of gladness above “thy fellows” – that is, above His fellow men.  God the Father was not anointing Jesus with something that He Himself did not possess.  Nor did this anointing produce in Jesus an amount of joy that exceeded what was already possessed of the Father.  So, we can concluded that Jesus had more joy than any man, and that God has an incomprehensible amount of joy.  Jesus is the happiest man who ever lived, and God is a very happy God.

We should pause to consider this for several reasons: knowing this about God can help us understand our own joy a little more, it can help us enjoy God more and rejoice in Him more in worship, and it can give us a richer, more personal, and more genuine experience of His joy.

It is appropriate that we should do this at Christmas time – because Christmas should be a time of overflowing joy for the Christian.  My son was commenting on the number of people he has encountered who absolutely hate Christmas – the trees, the lights, the carols, the traditions, the family gatherings – especially the family gatherings.  I think for many, the Christmas season shines a spotlight on their miseries and reminds them of their disappointments and their heartaches and pain. They prefer not to stir that bad soup, and Christmas insists on stirring it.

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Good Tidings of Great Joy

For, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy…

The angel called the fact that Jesus Christ was born “good tidings of great joy.”  The announcement marked the moment when God inserted Himself into our world, became one of us in order to save us.  The glory of Christmas is the glory of God becoming man – the Creator becoming what He had created – in order to rescue His fallen creation from death and hell.

The joy of Christmas is the joy of God and sinners reconciled.

Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the new-born King; peace on earth, and mercy mild—God and sinners reconciled!” Joyful, all ye nations rise, join the triumph of the skies; with th’ angelic hosts proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem!” Hark the herald angels sing, “Glory to the new-born King!”

God the Son entered our world as a man so that He could fight the devil as a man.  As God, He could defeat the devil quite easily, and nobody would find that impressive.  So, Jesus made Himself weak like us – weaker and lower than the devil – so that He could set Himself at the greatest possible disadvantage when He did battle with Satan. 

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Joy or Happiness?

For, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy…

Did you know that in the Bible we find some form of the words “joy,” “happy,” “delight,” “glad” or “gladness,” and “rejoice” more than 700 times? And if we add in the word “singing” or “sang” or “song,” we approach 1,000 references.  We can safely argue that joy is an important theme in the Bible.

One night in the fields near Bethlehem, an angel announced good tidings of great joy, because Jesus was born that night. And he added that these good tidings of great joy “shall be to all people.”

Conventional wisdom distinguishes joy from happiness.  According to modern theologians, happiness is temporal while joy is lasting.

“Happiness depends on circumstances, while joy depends on God alone.”

“Happiness is what the world has; joy is what Christians have.”

These are commonplace opinions of the difference between joy and happiness.  But is this true?  What is joy?  Is joy limited to Christmas celebrations, or should it permeate our Christian lives?  Is joy something distinct from happiness, or are they 2 sides of the same coin?

You might be surprised to note that the Bible makes no formal distinction between joy and happiness.  Joy is characteristic of the Christian life, and happiness is a product of faithful Christian living.  Consider this: the Bible never treats “happiness” as a non-Christian emotion. 

Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the LORD.

Psalm 144:15
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Christmas Joy

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

Some people resemble a little black raincloud – they never miss a chance to fuss at something.  For some Christians, this is a special talent: we are never happier than when we are miserable.  And for some odd reason, Christmas tends to draw out our inner Scrooge and turn him loose on the world. 

Sadly, getting way too uptight about things has become a favorite Christian pastime, a part of the ethos of piety.  I say “sadly” because I don’t believe God intended this for His people.  True, in many ways we are like just Lot, vexing our righteous souls.  But that doesn’t make “vexing” a fruit of the Spirit.  I don’t think God is more pleased with sour-faced self-righteousness.

Do the stores stock their shelves for Christmas long before Thanksgiving?  I’m not sure why I should be bothered by this.  For at least 2 months out of every year, the world acknowledges that something important happened on a cold winter night in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago.  Calling it a “Winter Festival” doesn’t change that fact. When the world turns “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays” they only expose their illiteracy.  “Holiday” is a variation of “Holy Day,” and holiness is hardly a secular value.  

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