Joy That Flourishes – December 13, 2017

And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked upon the humble state of his servant” (Luke 1:46-48a).

Are you in the Christmas spirit yet? What’s your usual technique? Sometimes we take the sacred ritual approach — watching a sentimental movie, dining on some annually-craved comfort food, and reminiscing about Christmases of yesteryear as treasured decorations are unpacked and nostalgically positioned. Sometimes we utilize the giving approach — donating to worthwhile charities, picking out the perfect  gifts for friends and loved ones, and baking treats that never disappoint. At still other times we try the bonding approach — overlooking past grievances, spending quality time with family and friends, and nurturing the relationships we hold dear. Whatever it takes for you, the goal is the same for us all — to reach a heightened sense of contentment, generosity, and happiness. In short, we all want some warm and fuzzy feelings this Christmas.

If you haven’t yet enjoyed such bliss this season, I sincerely hope you will. But I also hope you’ll join me in praying for something more steadfast and sure. As much as we’d all like to permanently bask in the glow of Christmas merriment, here’s a harsh spoiler alert: eventually the Hallmark channel will return to its regular programming (broadcasting uplifting tear-jerkers without the holiday glee), the decorations will need to come down and be put away, and bleak winter conditions will persist for months to come. Then what?

You might be thinking, “Oh come on, can’t we just savor Christmas without being reminded of how quickly it comes and goes?” Trust me, I’m really not trying to be a Scrooge. I just believe God wants more for us than fading joy. God wants us to experience a joy that flourishes throughout all seasons. Even though such joy may lack fading joy’s glitz and glamor, flourishing joy brings infinitely more happiness since it derives from the Infinite God.

So how can we have flourishing joy? Mary’s exuberant testimony shows us that the difference between fading joy and flourishing joy hinges on one word, namely, Savior. While fading joy depends upon our ability to create something for ourselves — a mindset, an emotional state, an experience — flourishing joy depends upon whether or not we receive the baby in the manger as Immanuel, God with us and God for us. So may God save us from our frenzied — and ultimately fruitless — efforts to turn happiness into something we can achieve. Instead, like Mary, may we receive Christ as our source of joy and well-being. And may God grant you and your family a Merry Christmas marked by joy that flourishes long after December 25!

Your Pastor,