The Joy of Christmas

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For many, Christmas is a time of sorrow and depression. Some mourn the loss of a loved one; some suffer due to a tragic event that haunts them.

As Christmas approaches, people frantically go from store to store, or website to website, looking for that perfect gift. Songs like “White Christmas,” “Winter Wonderland,” and “Jingle Bells” fill the air. Houses are lit up with various colors and trees are covered with precious decorations. Joy is in the air.

But not for everyone. For many, Christmas is a time of sorrow or even depression. Some mourn the loss of a loved one; some suffer due to a tragic event that haunts them each holiday season. Others are depressed because they are unable to provide even a single gift or even one meal for their children. Many see no joy in Christmas.

Why do some experience joy and others not? Is it the things they have or do not have? Is it possible to experience the joy of Christmas no matter how much or little one has? This requires, though, understanding the true joy of Christmas.

After being told by the angel that she would give birth to the Messiah, Mary went to the home of her cousin, Elizabeth. There she praised God in a song known as the Magnificat, or “Mary’s Song.” In this song, recorded in Luke 1:46-55, Luke is showing us the true joy of Christmas.

Christmas is Joyous . . . Because God Freely Gives

46 And Mary said: “My soul exalts the Lord, 47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. 48 “For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.
— Luke 1:46-48 (NASB)

Knowing the good news that she is carrying the promised Savior, Mary rejoices. She “exalts the Lord” and takes delight in him. Two reasons are given for her rejoicing. First, she knows that God honors humility. Notice that she calls herself a “bondslave” (some translations use “slave” or “servant”). She perceives herself as belonging to God, as the possession of God. When she says that she will be considered “blessed,” she is not elevating herself, but is stating how others will perceive her: that she was the one chosen to carry the Christ. God did not reward her humility, but honored it. She did not earn this miracle, God chose to bless her. She praises God because he honors her humble state.

Second, she praises God because he freely gives. She knows that God has given her a gift far beyond imagination. She did not seek this blessing, yet received it. God gave Mary a child—the Savior—because he wanted to. Furthermore, this gift is not for her alone, but will impact future people as well.

The joy of Christmas is that God freely gives.

Christmas is Joyous . . . Because God Gives Salvation

49 “For the Mighty One has done great things for me; And holy is His name. 50 “AND HIS MERCY IS UPON GENERATION AFTER GENERATION TOWARD THOSE WHO FEAR HIM.
— Luke 1:49-50 (NASB)

What did God do? He gave Mary and future believers the Messiah. When Mary declares that God “has done great things,” the context points to the child. God has given Mary her Savior. Again, she is not extolling her own virtue (see v. 46), but is giving credit to God, the one who gives. She elaborates further that God did this for his own glory. She exalts God who is bringing glory to his own name.

But Mary knew that the child was not given only to her—though only she would carry and give birth to him. Jesus was given to bless future generations. Two terms are key here: “mercy” and “fear.” The word “mercy” refers to salvation; “fear” refers to faith, belief, respect, and awe rather than terror. Mary is declaring that salvation is given to her and all other believers.

The joy of Christmas is not just that God gives, but that he gives salvation.

Christmas is Joyous . . . Because God Gives to the Humble

51 “He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. 52 “He has brought down rulers from their thrones, And has exalted those who were humble. 53 “HE HAS FILLED THE HUNGRY WITH GOOD THINGS; And sent away the rich empty-handed. 54 “He has given help to Israel His servant, In remembrance of His mercy, 55 As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and his descendants forever.”
— Luke 1:51-55 (NASB)

Just as Mary did not view herself as worthy of carrying the Messiah, for she was just a lowly servant, God gives salvation to the humble. In these last four verses, Mary declares God’s judgment and glorification.

She declares that God “scattered” and “brought down” the prideful. Notice that God judges both the pride of perception and pride of position. The pride of perception, put simply, is having an ego problem. Those who think highly of themselves, who believe they are worthy, holy, righteous, or otherwise deserve things from God. The Creator has no place for such attitudes.

The pride of position does not mean God condemns those in authority. Rather, it means that God judges those who elevate themselves because of their position. It also shows that compared to God, no office, job, or other position is better than any other: the beggar and the CEO are equal in God’s eyes.

God not only humble the proud, he extols the humble. He provides the needs of those who trust him; he cares for the hurting; he helps the helpless. Jesus brings salvation to all who believe in him (cf. Luke 4:18-19).

Thus, the joy of Christmas is God gives salvation, through Jesus, to the humble.

Are you ready to accept God’s gift of salvation? Are you ready to put your hope, faith, and trust in Jesus alone? If so, let us know. We want to help you know who Jesus and help you become active with other fellow believers in your community.

What about those of you already believe in Jesus? Have you shared this joy with someone this week? This month? Will you pledge to share this joy with others? If so, write to us and let us know that (1) you pledge to share the joy of Christmas with others and (2) how many you are sharing it with each week. If someone comes to faith, we want to know that, too, so we can celebrate with the angels the birth of a new believer!

Next Week: The Purpose of Christmas

About John L. Rothra
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