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“When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.”

-Matthew 2:10

Merry Christmas!  Good tidings to all!  May God bless us, everyone!  Joy to the world!  50% off!

Everyone is so happy at Christmas.  So happy.  It seems to good to be true.  It is.  Often Christmas is the least joyful time of the year.  There are probably a million reasons for this.  Let’s explore 6, and consider how we can really be joyful:

Materialism.  Christmas in our culture is all about stuff.  When we don’t have what we want, or what we think we need, we lose joy.

Jealousy.  Christmas is the time of year when you get the Christmas card that you wish you had made (sometimes even with the family you wish you had).  Jealousy steals joy.

Selfishness.  Whether it’s our unstated Christmas list or mandatory visit to that relative, the Christmas season seems to feed self-centeredness.  Focus on yourself, and you’ll lose joy.

Family.  The people to whom we are the closest and whom we love the most can cause us the greatest hurt and pain.  Hurt caused by others saps our joy.

Missing World Peace (or sin).  The vast majority of the world rejects the call of the lyrics in Joy to the World:  “Let earth receive her King,” or “Let every heart prepare him room.”  Our sin has left this world in bad shape.  By God’s grace it’s not as bad as it could be, but it sure isn’t right.  Sin all around us dampens our joy.

Sorrow.  Christmas can often be a time of great sorrow as we remember lost family, friends, or circumstances.  This is especially true for those who have lost spouses due to death or divorce.  Sorrow isn’t joy.

Things weren’t better in the 1st century AD.  Add to the list above the issues of shorter life spans, pre-modern era medical practices, ruthless dictators, and seemingly endless wars for imperial control, and you get the picture.

Yet, in the midst of all this, when Jesus the Christ was born, we find rejoicing on all fronts.  Angels rejoiced: “Glory to God in the highest!” (Luke 2:14).  Jewish shepherds (read: the poorest) rejoiced:  “And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them“ (Luke 2:20).  Gentile wise men (read: the rich) rejoiced: “When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” (Matthew 2:10).

We all know our lives aren’t perfect.  We all know sin is a daily reality, both in our hearts and in the world around us.  But given the status quo, we really can rejoice because of the coming of Jesus.  He came to be the solution.  He died for our sins (including materialism, jealousy, and selfishness).  His reign gives us hope when our family hurts us, or the world abuses us.  His gracious care and mercy give us joy in the midst of sorrow.

Let’s stop pretending to be happy at Christmas.  Instead, let’s consider why heavenly angels, poor shepherds, and rich wise men all had reason to rejoice, and why we do too.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”  (Luke 2:11).

Ryan serves as the Senior Pastor of Green Pond Bible Chapel in Rockaway, New Jersey. He is married with four children.

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