1. Always be joyful. (1 Thessalonians 5:16 NLT)
2. Honor and majesty are [found] in His presence; strength and joy are [found] in His sanctuary. (1 Chronicles 16:27 AMP)
3. “So you’ll go out in joy, you’ll be led into a whole and complete life. The mountains and hills will lead the parade, bursting with song. All the trees of the forest will join the procession, exuberant with applause. No more thistles, but giant sequoias, no more thornbushes, but stately pines— Monuments to me, to GOD, living and lasting evidence of GOD.” (Isaiah 55:12-13 MSG)
4. Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times. (Romans 12:12 GNB)
5. Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. (Psalms 126:5 NLT)
6. You have changed my sadness into a joyful dance; you have taken away my sorrow and surrounded me with joy. (Psalms 30:11 GNB)
7. I have told you these things, that My joy and delight may be in you, and that your joy and gladness may be of full measure and complete and overflowing. (John 15:11 AMP)
8. Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! (Philippians 4:4 NLT)
9. Then you will always trust in God and find that he is the source of your joy. (Job 22:26 GNB)
10. Blessed (happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous–with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy! (Matthew 5:7 AMP)
When looking into the birth of Jesus, you have to look into Mary. She is the first one to get the news that she would give birth to our Savior. We don’t know how old she was or what she was doing when the Angel Gabriel arrived to give her the news. We do know it frightened her though. Gabriel reassured her and said, “Don’t be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God!” That words “found favor” can be translated to “brought joy, pleasure or delight to.” The Angel was telling her that she lived a life that brought joy to God and he was there to bring good news.
I wonder what went through Mary’s mind as he began to tell her that she was going to be pregnant with the Messiah. Did she start to wonder what kind of mom she would be? When he said her child would reign over Israel forever, did she grasp what he was saying? He gave her a lot to think about as he laid out God’s plan for her child. I don’t know what all she thought about, but I do know she was concerned about being pregnant. She asked, “How can this happen? I am a virgin.” She wasn’t questioning him. She, like you and I, wanted to know the specifics of God’s plan.
I love Gabriel’s response in Luke 1:37, “For with God nothing is ever impossible and no word from God shall be without power or impossible of fulfillment (AMP).” When God promises something to us, He will fulfill it. It doesn’t matter how impossible it may sound to us, God has the ability to make it happen. He is not bound by our limitations. He isn’t limited by our income. He is not intimidated by our fears. He is able to do exceedingly above and beyond all we could ever ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). The angel’s message to Mary (and us): If God said it, He will do it.
I think Mary’s response to that should be our response to God. It showed who she really was and why God chose her for such a task as to bring His Son into the world. Luke 1:38 says, “Mary responded, ‘I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.'” It didn’t matter how impossible it sounded or how big a task it was, she was ready to do what God asked her to do. She pushed past her fear of the unknown. She looked beyond the possible shame of being pregnant out of wedlock. She agreed to do whatever it was that God asked her to do.
You and I need to learn to trust God’s plan above all else. It may seem impossible, out of reach or even outlandish, but if God said He would do it, our response she be like her’s. We should be willing to endure shame, push past our fears and trust that God knows what He’s doing. If we want our lives to bring joy, pleasure and delight to the King of Kings, then we should be a servant who’s willing to serve in whatever capacity He has for us. God’s looking for us to simply trust Him and say, “May everything you say about me come true.”
The Bible only gives us a few clues about Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus. He’s only mentioned in a few verses, but from those verses we can tell a lot about him. I think it’s important to remember that even though he wouldn’t have a role in the DNA of Jesus, he was chosen by God to help shape the man jesus would become. God knew that he possessed the qualities He wanted in a man that would raise Jesus as his own and would take care of his family above all. That tells me that he was a man of character.
We know that Joseph received some news that was hard to swallow. His fiancé told him she was pregnant and he knew that it wasn’t his. The story she told him was hard to believe. It went against everything he knew. I wonder if he was furious, angry or just heart broken. No matter what emotions went through him, Matthew 1:19 says, “Joseph was a man who always did what was right, but he did not want to disgrace Mary publicly; so he made plans to break the engagement privately.” He must have struggled with the right thing to do.
His love for Mary overrode the letter of the law. Mary could have been put to death for getting pregnant with someone else’s baby. Remember the story of the adulteress woman? They wanted to stone her. It was custom to put her to death, but Joseph didn’t want to do that. He loved her and valued life. His decision to break the engagement privately spoke again to his character. He had every right to shame her and her family publicly, but he chose a better route because of his character. Doing what’s right isn’t always doing what you’re permitted to do.
As he thought of the consequences of his predicament, an angel visited him in a dream. The angel said, “Do not be afraid to take Mary to be your wife. For it is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived. She will have a son, and you will name him Jesus – because he will save his people from their sins.” The angel corroborated the story Mary had told him. A few verses later we read that Joseph did what the Angel told him to do. Not only was he a man of character, he was a man of obedience. He obeyed even though it was the hard thing to do.
We know from the story of David being anointed king that God loos at our heart. When He looked at Joseph’s heart, He saw a man of character and a man of obedience. He knew He could trust Him with anything including raising His only son. When God looks at our heart, what does He see? Does He know we will obey even though it is inconvenient? Does He know we will act with integrity even though circumstances may be against us? It’s in the hard times and decisions of life that your character is revealed. Be a person of obedience so God can trust you with anything.
Matthew 2 tells the story of the wise men coming to visit Jesus after He was born. Over the centuries, we’ve put crowns on these men and called them kings. We’ve also narrowed down the number of them to three. The Bible doesn’t tell us how many there were. It just says, “Men.” The Greek word used for them is magos. It’s interpreted as wise men, teachers, priests, physicians and astrologers. Debates can go on about who they were, how many there were and where they came from, but that’s not what I think we should focus on.
One of the main things I think we should focus on is that they were seeking Him. They traveled a great distance to find the King. They weren’t even afraid to ask for help. They stopped in Jerusalem and asked King Herod where the newborn king was. They kept searching until they found Him. You and I tend to quit seeking Him after we’ve found Him, but I think that our lives should be lived in pursuit of the King. We should search to know Him more each day. We should spend time seeking out who He is and what He says. Our lives will be fuller for it.
The next thing I noticed is that they said in verse 2, “We saw His star as it rose, and we have come to worship Him.” They were face to face with the king of the country and told him that they had come to worship another. Their priorities in whom and what they worshipped were in order. Too many times, we let Jesus take a back seat to who or what we are worshipping. We allow sports to dictate whether we go to church or not. We allow other things to occupy our minds when we have designated time to spend with the King of Kings. We treat our worship as a spiritual box than can be checked off as part of a requirement. We would be wise to follow the precedence set by these wise men.
Finally, they brought Him gifts. They opened up their bags and presented Him with what they had. They prepared ahead of time to give Him things that were most precious to them. They didn’t offer Him something that had no value or that only cost them a little. They were all in so they went all out with their gifts. You and could learn a lot from their sacrifice. God isn’t interested in our leftovers. He has always wanted our best and our first fruits. The gifts we bring to Him should have value and be meaningful to us. These gifts don’t just have to be monetary. They can be our talents and abilities.
I’ve always been intrigued by the wise men who visited Jesus. God chose not only the poor of this world to celebrate the arrival of His son, but He also chose men of stature to share in it. These wise men had their priorities right so God chose them to share in this history changing moment. I wonder what moments in life that God wants to include you and I in if only we would get our priorities right and be willing to offer Him our best. The great news is that is a decision you and I can make today. If you want to be wise, walk in the steps of the wise.
Ever since Cain and Abel, shepherds have had a special place in God’s heart. I don’t know if it’s because they protect and watch the defenseless or if it’s because they’re willing to sacrifice themselves for something that is not their own. Throughout the Bible, God has shown his love for shepherds. He gave one dreams that were fulfilled when he became second in command of Egypt. He used one to lead his people out of captivity. He even turned one into the most famous King of Israel. So it’s no surprise that shepherds were among the first to know about the birth of Jesus.
It was an ordinary night for them during that time of year. The Bible says they were keeping watch of their flocks by night. The only time shepherds stay with sheep at night are during the lambing season (when the flock gives birth). There are only two times a year that sheep can give birth (Spring or Fall). During these few weeks, the shepherds stay with the flock 24/7 so they can help with the birthing process. They make sure there are no complications and they protect the newborn.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that God first gave the news of Jesus’ birth to shepherds. They are the ones who could protect the baby should any problems arise. They were not weak individuals like we see displayed in our nativity scenes. They were strong, rugged people who could defend the sheep against any foe. David said he fought a lion and a bear in order to protect his sheep. If either of those showed up to eat a lamb that didn’t belong to us, most of us would run and let them have the sheep. But not shepherds. They would fight to the end.
Shepherds were also closely knit. They knew where different grazing pastures were. They communicated with each other so that the land could sustain their flocks. What better way to spread the news of the birth of our Savior than through the communication network of shepherds. The news could be spread far and wide quickly. Luke 2:17 says, “After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.” God chose them because they wouldn’t be silent.
Today, you and I are like those shepherds. God has entrusted us with the good news of what Jesus has done. He asked us before He left to go into all the world proclaiming the Gospel. For some of us, that’s a small world of just a few friends. For others, it’s a much larger network of people. There are some who are called to carry the message to places it has not been heard. Wherever you go, however big your network is, our responsibility is to let everyone know what happened when we met our Savior.
1. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. (Deuteronomy 6:5-7 NLT)
2. A good man leaves an inheritance [of moral stability and goodness] to his children’s children. (Proverbs 13:22 AMP)
3. We will not keep them from our children; we will tell the next generation about the Lord ‘s power and his great deeds and the wonderful things he has done. (Psalms 78:4 GNB)
4. Train up a child in the way he should go [and in keeping with his individual gift or bent], and when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6 AMP)
5. It is the living who praise you, As I praise you now. Parents tell their children how faithful you are. (Isaiah 38:19 GNB)
6. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15 ESV)
7. But no weapon that is formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue that shall rise against you in judgment you shall show to be in the wrong. This [peace, righteousness, security, triumph over opposition] is the heritage of the servants of the Lord [those in whom the ideal Servant of the Lord is reproduced]; this is the righteousness or the vindication which they obtain from Me [this is that which I impart to them as their justification], says the Lord. (Isaiah 54:17 AMP)
8. Children are fortunate if they have a father who is honest and does what is right. (Proverbs 20:7 GNB)
9. I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth. (3 John 1:4 NLT)
10. The Lord knows the days of the upright and blameless, and their heritage will abide forever. (Psalm 37:18 AMP)
I’ve often heard that joy is not circumstantial, but happiness is. To many of us, the two are the same. I believe that happiness is an external expression as a result from a feeling. Joy, on the other hand, is what creates hope and optimism even in the face of circumstances that tell you otherwise. Joy is what gives us the strength to put one foot in front of the other, to breathe in and breathe out and to get out of bed when all we want to do is curl up and cry. Joy gives us peace in troubled times.
The Bible speaks a lot about Joy. In one instance, Job had been faced with great loss to his family, finances and health. Things got so bad that his own wife told him, “Curse God and die!” She had let the circumstances steal her Joy. She saw no way out of the situation. She had no hope for the future. She was mad at God, mad at life and mad at her husband. She couldn’t understand why her husband still held onto his faith in God in such trying times. It just didn’t make sense.
I’ve found that a lot of life doesn’t make sense. I don’t understand why things happen the way they do. I don’t pretend to know why God doesn’t answer my prayers the way I pray for Him to. Just because He doesn’t, I shouldn’t stop praying. I shouldn’t grow bitter against Him. I shouldn’t sever our relationship. It’s easy to do those things in the midst of a trial if you don’t have Joy. It’s easy to want to quit, renounce your faith and walk away because you’re mad at God. But Job proved that you can go through unimaginable pain and maintain your Joy. Was he sad? Yes. But even in his sadness, he did the hard thing. He held onto Joy.
I’m sure he began to wonder why he was holding onto it after a while. I’m sure over time the situation, the questions and longevity of his trial began to wear on him. During that time, a friend named Bildad came to encourage him. In Job 8:21, he reminded Job of who God was and what He promised His people. He said, “He (God) will once again fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.” He reminded Job that the circumstantial sadness was only temporary.
I believe that verse is God’s promise to us today. He will once again return laughter and joy to your life no matter what your circumstances have brought you. I love Psalm 30:5. It’s very familiar to lots of people. You’ve heard it read as, “Weeping may endure for a night, but Joy comes in the morning.” I especially love how the Message puts it. It says, “The nights of crying your eyes out will give way to days of laughter.” Circumstances will tell you those days will never come, but Joy says it’s on its way. That’s a promise from God.