As we enter the Christmas season and Advent, we are bombarded by advertisements from retailers about the newest and greatest gifts and toys. Intrinsic to the marketing is the subliminal message, "If you buy these, you will be happy."
But do we find real happiness in buying more stuff? It's fun, trust me, to get new toys and gifts at Christmas. I have a nice wishlist going on Amazon right now. I know, however, that my happiness and joy is not tied to these gifts. It is tied to something more eternal. It is tied to the ultimate Gift that was given to us thousands of years ago in the birth of Christ, who, as the ancient creeds say, "was fully man and fully God."
It was a world changer, literally. Born into a Hellenistic society filled with syncretism and a pantheon of gods, Christ's "advent" was a seminal event. Suddenly the world was presented with the concept of just one God and that it could have relationship with this one God through His Son.
Christ didn't just turn the Hellenistic world upside down, however, He was the ultimate market disrupter in the Jewish world as well, a society dominated by the Law given to Moses on Sinai. The Jewish law was a list of rules, "Do this, don't do that. Do this this way" and on and on the Law went. Can you imagine the frustration caused by this daily practice?
Suddenly, a light shone into the darkness of this world. The world's concept of capricious gods was challenged as was the Jewish community's worldview that by keeping the Law, man could attain right standing with God. Imagine the uncertainty the ancient world must have felt worshiping gods who could change their mind if they were not offered the right sacrifices or libations. Homer's Illiad is an incredible look into the mind of ancient man and how he viewed the gods (and how the man-made gods related to man). Or in the Jewish community, the list of daily rules and regulations that each member of society had to keep and if they weren't kept, the consequences of it. It was a vicious cycle of capricious gods and rules that couldn't be kept.
Suddenly Christ stands astride this world and says, "I AM the way, the truth and the life" (John 14:6) and "I have come that they may have life and have it in abundance" (John 10:10). He spoke truth, both in knowing right and wrong, but also truth as it pertained to how man can have right relationship with God. He was Truth. He was Life.
This is a reason for Joy in this season of Advent. We no longer face uncertainty. We do not have to fear what our future brings. We have a source of Joy. We have a reason for celebration this Christmas season. It is in celebrating Christ's birth and the gifts that He brings. Salvation, clarity, truth and joy.
I have to admit that 9 years ago I was not finding joy in my circumstances. Becca and I were sitting in the neonatal intensive care unit with our second daughter, Lily, as she awaited and then recovered from open heart surgery, the first of three open heart surgeries. She was four days old.
"Consider it a joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials," writes James in his epistle. I was not considering it joy at that moment. There was a lot of self-introspection going on during that time in my life. The focus was on me. I remember distinctly having to take it off me and focus on Christ. Verses 3 and 4 of James, Chapter 1 continue with ". . . because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance, and let endurance have its full affect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing."
So as we begin this Advent season, I want to challenge you with this simple question: where do you find your joy?
If it is only in and on the world around you-friends, family, achievements, toys and technology-you will be disappointed.
It takes a shifting of our gaze and a re-setting of our priorities. Make Christ your focus. Make Him your source of joy this advent season. It's a game changer.