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Let the Joy Begin!

December 5, 2011

Ebenezer Scrooge’s exclamation “Bah! Humbug! ” in Charles Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol, was intended to extinguish the joy of Christmas from the hearts of those within hearing.  But the inner joy that shines from the presence of the Christ-light in the hearts of believers is not so easily extinguished.

Indeed, Paul reminds us that being joyful is a Christian duty:  “Rejoice in the Lord always.  Again I say rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).  We are even required to be joyful in adverse circumstances:  “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience (James 1:2).  But how can that be? Are we to enjoy our trials?  While no one enjoys pain, we can be joyful, even in difficult circumstances, knowing that “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28).  We are assured that nothing is wasted in God’s economy.  He will use everything, even our trials, for good purposes.  Bob Cratchit and his family exemplified the expression of joy in the midst of many trials, including the life-threatening illness of the family’s youngest child, Tiny Tim.

R.C. Sproul explains that “Being joyful is a matter of the will.  The key to being joyful all the time is ‘in the Lord.’  If Christ is in me and I in Him, that relationship is constant.  Therefore, there is always reason for joy.  That is why, in the midst of difficulties, we can rejoice in Christ—because he is always present in us.”[1]   “If joy is not a characteristic in our lives, it may be a sign that we are not Christians at all. . . It is simply impossible to be in Christ and not partake of His joy.”[2]

Dickens sets the stage for Scrooge’s conversion to joy by showing him the ghosts of Christmases past, present and future.  Like Scrooge, we have also been given past, present and future reasons to be joyful.

The Past: We can be joyful because of what God has done for us: “The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy” (Psalm 126:3).  Christmas is the time that we remember the greatest gift that God gave us, his Son; it is the primary source of our joy!

The Present:  We are given many opportunities in the here and now to experience joy.  But the Psalmist says that the only reason we need, is to know that each day is a gift from God:  “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).  Another source of everyday joy is the presence of others in our lives.  We are told to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15).  Sproul says that “In serving others, you will find joy. . . we should not be jealous, envious or resentful.  We should be able to enter into the joy of others, just as we are to enter into their suffering.” [3]

The act of being forgiven by God is also a source of everyday joy.  Sproul explains that “To know that one is forgiven of one’s sin creates joy in the heart like nothing else.  That is because guilt stifles joy, and as long as we live with the burden of unforgiven sin, we will not know joy . . . forgiveness in Christ restores our broken souls.  Guilt brings feelings of pain and sorrow, but redemption in Christ fills us with a joy that lasts forever. “[4]

The Future:  Another source of joy is the assurance of our future home in heaven.  We follow Jesus’ example: “He was able to endure the cross because of the joy that was set before Him (Hebrews 12:2).”[5]  The assurance of eternal life with God is a source of great joy: “rejoice because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).

Last week, I laughed out loud remembering our Thanksgiving celebration and the reunion of our sons with family friends that evening, when they all gathered in the kitchen and sparred with each other.  The house rang with their laughter.  What a terrific example they set in rejoicing with each other!

The Christmas season is a time to remember who we are and what we are about.  It is a time to remember to live in joyful anticipation of the opportunities that each new day brings, and the joy that is ours in Christ Jesus.  Let the joy begin!

Diane C. Reagan

December 4, 2011

[1] R.C. Sproul, Tabletalk, “Don’t Worry, Be Joyful,” April 1998, p. 25, Ligonier Ministries, Inc.

[2]  R.C. Sproul, Tabletalk, “Willful Joy,” July 1995, p. 6, Ligonier Ministries, Inc.

[3] R.C. Sproul, Tableltalk, “How Do You Spell Joy?” April 1998, p.27 Ligonier Ministries,Inc.

[4] [4] R. C. Sproul, Tabletalk, “The Greatest Joy,” April 1998, p. 30, Ligonier Ministries, Inc.

[5] R. C. Sproul, Tabletalk, “Counting It All Joy,” April 1998, p. 26, Ligonier Ministries, Inc.

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