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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