Have you ever felt ashamed of being happy? Maybe you felt like you didn’t deserve to be happy because you had sinned or you saw the pain of others and thought that being happy would be dismissing their pain. Maybe you have been taught that God works through trials and sorrow and so happiness is not something to be proud of. Maybe you feel as though to experience joy would be to deny the memory of ones you have lost.
While the pursuit of happiness is very much what the American dream is all about, for Christians, being happy can be associated with guilt. Even though it is a fruit of the spirit, somehow Joy is sometimes demonized in our Christian culture. But the Christmas story is filled with joy. God called Mary to walk a very difficult path; yet, in the midst of it, she had joy. Not just the approved “godly” joy, but true, break out into song joy. Elizabeth was joyful enough that she “exclaimed with a loud cry” (Luke 1:42). It is quite biblically to be joyful, and the people who were intimately involved in the birth of Christ are excellent role models for what being joyful looks like.
It is ok to be joyful even in the midst of our own personal trials or the trials of others. While sometimes life’s circumstances make joy difficult to find, too often we are the ones who restrict our own joy. The story of the birth teaches us that it is ok to be joyful when given good news. It is ok to take this season and use it as an opportunity to reflect on and recognize the joy in our own lives. This may come in the form of a friend or loved one. It may come as a new opportunity. Whatever the cause, it is ok to feel the joy and happiness of that moment or person.
Beyond that, here is what the angel proclaims: “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10). A savior has been born. Not just any savior, but God’s savior. This news is worth being joyful about. This news is for all the world, including you and me. In this baby, God makes His grand intentions known to rescue us, to tell us we are not alone. We are not lost in our sins. Our future is not hopeless. We can and should rejoice because we know in Jesus that God loves us, has committed Himself to us and has provided all we need to be saved for all eternity.
Reflect on your own view of joy. Does it sometimes bring about guilt in you? Do you struggle finding joy? When is it most difficult for you? Consider that one of the fruits of the Spirit is joy. We do not need to feel guilt about being happy. Instead, we can look at the many blessings in our lives from Jesus our savior to the people who love us and surround us to the smallest moments of joy that we might find a good walk, the rising sun or a cup of coffee and recognize these can be blessings from God. Ask the Lord to help you find and experience greater joy today.