Merry Christmas, friends! What a strange Christmas season this has been without the usual events that I love to attend. Having young kids has been a blessing through this season because Esther thinks everything we do is “awesome” – even though the bulk of what we’ve done this month is go out for walks to see the Christmas lights and decorations. In light of how different, and difficult, this week has been, I wanted to share one of my favourite devotions from the devotional I wrote for this season: Home for the Holidays. Here is Truth #7: Joy Is Possible.
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
With the announcement today regarding BC’s health orders in effect until January 8, 2021, this is a difficult topic to write about, and yet, extremely important. Do you know what I love most about the Christmas season? It’s not the lights, the food, or Starbucks’ Christmas blend. It’s the people. It’s getting together with friends and family to celebrate this season together. Unfortunately, that won’t happen this year – at least not like in the past. The coronavirus is sweeping through our communities and so in order to protect ourselves and everyone else, we are unable to get together with people outside of our households. That is a sentence I never thought I would have to write.
It would be easy to say that even though it is God’s will for us to be joyful always, this next month is the exception. This year has felt like the exception to this verse. But the verse doesn’t say, “Be joyful always unless you’re facing a pandemic.” It says, “Be joyful always” period. How is this even possible? The joy that Paul is talking about in this verse does not refer to “happiness”. He is not saying that we must be happy always or that we won’t face hard times. We already know we will face trials and suffering (we talked about this in truth #1). The joy in this verse is often associated with the firm hope we have in Christ. Romans 5:2-5 and 12:12 both talk about this hope in the glory of God and that this hope results in joy. Romans 5:3 specifically says “we rejoice in our sufferings” because it produces transformation to make us more like Christ.
Has this year been filled with trials? You betcha. But we serve a God who has overcome this year and who will come again in glory to raise up His church and establish His Kingdom forever.
As we enter a Christmas season like never before, how will you fight for joy and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God? I think part of the process is that we have to take a minute to grieve what can’t be. We need to let go of the plans we had and hoped for and make room for something new. By doing that, we can give God room to fill our homes with joy and overwhelming peace this Christmas. With no real end in sight, it might feel like this pandemic will go on forever. One day, we will look back and realize we are on the other side of it. Until then, fight for joy. Pursue Christ and remain obedient to whatever He is calling you to do in this season. Trust that His plans are for our good and His glory and you will see Him do amazing things.