There is a joy that comes about during the Christmas season that is almost unexplainable. There is the anticipation of gifts being given and received, and there is a greater gravitation towards family and friends than during any other season. Christmas is unique for the presence of joy.
However, joy can be easily misunderstood. There is a significant difference between joy and happiness. Happiness is experienced when everything is going as planned or as we hoped. We experience happiness when family members are kind and loving as they ought to be, and when friends are truly supportive and say all the right things. Happiness is experienced when we get the gift that we wanted, or when we can give a gift that is much needed or desired to a loved one. Happiness depends on… but joy is a decision to be.
There are many who have had experiences, even during the Christmas season that is all but good, certainly nothing to be happy about. I would venture that there are some who would even refuse to celebrate Christmas because of painful experiences during the Christmas season.
Nevertheless, joy is a fruit of the Spirit that we can all have, at any time, with happiness as its offspring when that joy is clinged to. This may come as a surprise to some who have been looking for something outside of themselves to be happy about, especially during Christmas time when expectations can be so high. You know the expression, “The reason for the season.” Even though this may be a cliché to some, there is a necessity to refocus on what is truly important, and what is available to all of us. You know what comes next: JESUS. He is the reason for the season, and He is available to all of us. He is the greatest gift to all who will receive.
Receiving joy or being joyful does not depend on our circumstances. It does not mean that we are always smiling or cheerful. Joy is a choice to acknowledge that the God who is Love (1John 4:16) and that He loves us, and He is with us in all our circumstances and experiences. Many of us wonder, why does He allow bad things to happen, or why does He not change the circumstances so they will be more pleasant. I dare not try to answer this question, but I believe God Himself has answered it. John 16:33 states: “…In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Therefore, Christmas nor any season of our life is not promised to be cheerful, but there is the promise that the gift that we celebrate during this time has overcome the world, which means eventually we will experience victory and triumph over that which has caused pain. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5). In other words, there is hope for a better day because of Jesus entering into the world, and each of our individual worlds as we allow. Because of this, let God’s love be our joy, and may this joy result in peace; and peace enables us to be patient; and patience enables us to be kind and good to others, even when circumstances are not in our favor. We then continue these practices faithfully, with gentleness and self-control (taken from Galatians 5:22-23).
When we strive for happiness, even during the Christmas season, we can become stuck in a place we do not want to be. But when we remember the reason for the season which is God’s love to us through His Son, we can have joy, the kind of joy that we sing about during this time of year.