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“Do not be afraid, I bring you good tidings of great JOY…”

I was in the mall yesterday and the GAP’s window display caught my eye.  It said “Bring on the JOY”…their website says “Joy Alert: 50% Off Sweaters!”

50% off may be good news to us during this time of economic recession, but seriously, Joy Alert?  Will buying those sweaters really give me the joy that is worth alerting the world?  How about great joy?

“There is a counterfeit story that culture is telling us: when we get what we want, we will be happy. How can we get beyond faux happiness and realize authentic joy in pursuing a Kingdom oriented way of life? Consider how a deeper understanding of the Gospel could reshape your decision-making in a consumer-driven society.”           

Chris Seay at Q Ideas For the Common Good

A deeper understanding of the Gospel…a deeper understanding of Christmas…a deeper understanding of what we are saying when we say “Merry Christmas”.  Happy Christmas.  Joyfilled Christmas.  Joy has come to the world, and this joy has nothing to do with a sweater sale at the Gap.

Joy to the World.

This Christmas, it is my desire to re-orient, once again, to the authentically JOYful news that the angels declared to those simple shepherds.  Joy came down.  Joy that didn’t revolve around the sales at the mall, beautiful gift wrapping, sparkling window displays or the anticipation of what gift I might open on Christmas morning.  Heaven’s Joy came to offer a lost world hope, a sense of belonging, and a new reason for living.  He came to restore all that was broken, to remove our shame, to free us from our self-made prisons; He came to re-orient our world back to the ways of goodness, humility, justice, love and peace…to bring us back to God.

Come, Joy, fill my heart.  Come, fill my family.  Fill my neighborhood.  Fill my world.

Good tidings of great joy” is the first thing that is said in the angelic announcement.  Let that sink in for a moment.  

The angel did not say, “I bring you news of a teaching that I hope you can follow”; or “I bring you news that Jesus is coming; and, boy, is He mad!”  

No, the message was, “It’s time to celebrate!  God is doing what you couldn’t.  He is making a way where there was no way.  You are being saved from the curse, rejection, shame, punishment, poverty and sickness; and from performance-based living.  The door is being opened to eternal life, intimacy with the Father, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and so much more.  It is incredible, joyous news!”             

Steve Backlund, Possessing Joy, day 22

I want to re-orient myself to this Joy- to a posture of child-like anticipation, eager excitement to lavish this Joy on my world in tangible ways and in gifts that express to the world the reality of Christmas, and the reality of the One we celebrate.

What would my Christmas look like if I were to really celebrate in honor of the One for whom it is named?  Would it look like purchasing more stuff?  Would I still find myself wandering blindly down the decorated aisles of consumerism, buying buying buying, in hopes that my life would be more joy-filled after bringing home that must have sweater/eyeshadow/home decor/pair of boots that seems to be calling me by name?  Would I feel the same pressure to rush out and buy people who don’t need more stuff the perfect stuff that will add to their stuff and make them feel a little more happy, a little more loved?


If my Christmas celebration was more oriented around this Joy message, wouldn’t I spend my time finding ways to specifically promote the justice, hope, healing, peace and reconciliation that marked Jesus’ life and ministry? Wouldn’t I find one simple way to offer kindness, service, love to my neighbor, to my mail man, to a child in Haiti, to a stranger who may never say thank you?  To give meaningful gifts?

A gift of love may be what is needed turn the eyes of one hopeless person back to their Maker.  A gift of bread just might feed more than a hungry tummy, it just might feed the soul that feels overlooked and lonely.  A gift of truth just might open the eyes of the blind to the extravagant kindness of God.  A gift of service just might tell a shut-in that they are not forgotten, that they are not abandoned.

What is it all really about, again?  I know it’s about baby Jesus, at least that what we tell our kids.  But really…really, what are we celebrating?  How are we celebrating?

How I celebrate is directly linked to who I celebrate.

How will I celebrate the birth of this debt-forgiving, hope-bringing, freedom offering, heart-healing God-Man?

Christmas celebrates the birth of Hope, the establishment of Joy.

We celebrate Him who brings justice, reconciliation, healing, salvation, life.

We celebrate the filling of all that is empty, the making right of all things wrong.

In the seed form of a baby, we celebrate the King who ushers in

a reign of peace that will last forever.

My family and I are in pursuit of this kind of Christmas celebration where our giving and our passion for this message of HOPE far outshines the glimmer and glitz of the wrapping and bows.  We are not anti-gifts (in fact we are excited about giving thoughtful gifts to our loved ones); we are simply passionate about the Real Gift.  

In the posts to come I will humbly offer some ideas of how we are hoping to give gifts that magnify the True Joy we have in Christ.  Meaningful, not mindless gifts.  We are trying to un-learn the ways of consumerism, and longing to learn the ways of Love, to walk the path of Joy, to give the gifts that Jesus would offer the world if He were here in person to celebrate His birth.

I would be honored and encouraged to hear your comments as you reflect on this Advent, this preparation season for our Savior, and as you re-orient yourself to what it means to anticipate True Joy, the Real Gift.