Despite the fact that the message of the Christmas season is joy and happiness, I personally get pretty stressed out at this time of year. It is because of shopping. And by this time in December, I am ready to be done with all of it – not with the celebration of the birth of Christ, but with all of the Christmas hoopla.
I think part of the problem is that we try to find joy and happiness in Christmas when we actually need to find joy and happiness in Christ.
What we must not lose sight of is that it was a day of great joy when Christ was born. In his gospel, Luke was very meticulous in reporting the details of Christ’s birth. Luke wasn’t one of the 12 apostles or a personal eyewitness of the life and ministry of Jesus for the most part. Rather, he put together an account afterward of what Jesus said and did. He wrote in Luke 1:3, “I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you” (NIV).
Not only was Luke a stickler for detail, but he also wrote beautifully, portraying a picture for the minds of his readers. But when we read or hear the story of Christ’s birth so many times, we can easily skip over it and not think about what it actually means. So let’s revisit it:
And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.
Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1–7 NKJV)
When you really look at the life of Jesus and the Incarnation, it is not a rags-to-riches story; it is a riches-to-rags story. Jesus came to Earth, giving up everything to serve us.
God moved Caesar Augustus to issue the decree that everyone should be taxed, because it was God’s plan to get Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. The Scriptures didn’t prophesy that the Messiah would be born in Nazareth. Instead, the Scriptures said that he would be born in Bethlehem: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2).
God moved human events to cause this prophecy to be fulfilled. History is his story. This was the moment in human history when God chose to bring the Savior. And that is the message the angel delivered to the shepherds that night: “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10–11). From these verses, we discover how we can find joy in Christmas.
If you want to have joy this Christmas, don’t be afraid. Fear can cancel out our joy and rob us of it. At the time of Jesus’ birth, Israel suffered under the reign of the tyrant King Herod, who would execute at will. As Jews in a Roman-occupied land, there was a fear about their future. They probably wondered whether they would ever be free again. Would the Messiah ever come?
The angel was saying, “Don’t be afraid. The Messiah has come.”
We can be filled with fear because of the world in which we live. We also can be filled with fear and anxiety on a personal level, with concerns about our health, our jobs, our finances and the economy. The epitaph “Hurried, Worried and Buried” could be written on countless American gravestones.
Are you worried right now? Are you filled with fear? Fear is what Christ came to remove so that we can have great joy. But the condition of that joy is to let go of our fear. Don’t be afraid.
Notice the angel also said, “For behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people” (verse 10). In other words, “Even if you don’t feel like it, rejoice, because your world just changed.”
This doesn’t mean we should wear plastic smiles on our faces 24/7. When the Bible speaks of joy, it speaks of something far deeper than this. It is an abiding joy that is independent of circumstances. The joy we experience in Christ can be ours, in good times or bad.
Some might say, “How can I have joy? I am having a hard time this Christmas. I am having problems – problems in my career, problems in my marriage, problems with my health. I can’t be joyful.”
If you want joy, you can have it for this reason: “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).
You have a Savior. Jesus came to save us from the power and penalty of sin. Whatever you are going through in life, remember that you have a Savior.
You also have a Christ. The name Christ means “anointed one.” The Hebrew version of the word is “Messiah.” Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises to the Jewish people to send his son as the Messiah. It is a reminder that God keeps his promises. You have a Savior who has forgiven you of your sin. You have a Messiah who keeps his promises. Now, that is a reason for great joy.