“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:8-11
According to the Herald Angels, (and who wants to argue with them) Christmas is a season of good news and great joy. The good news has not changed, so where is the joy? The story is the same, our need is the same, our God is the same, the work of Christ has been completed and His Spirit is available and active in our world, so why is there so little joy?
Because this is such an important question I have given it some serious thought. It seems to me the best way to answer it is to consider why these shepherds found such joy. Once we understand that we can try tap into their sources of joy.
The first obvious answer is they heard from God.
Well, that makes sense, doesn’t it? God is the Source of joy so hearing from Him brings joy!
You may be thinking, “Sure, Brad, if I could hear from angels I would be joyful, too!”
I’m not saying it couldn’t happen but you have several other more practical options for hearing from God.
Prayer is a primary way to hear from God. The shepherds had angels but we have Jesus interceding for us as we pray and the Holy Spirit inspiring us and instructing us and interpreting for us as we pray!
If joy is missing from your life the first place to look is your prayers? Are you regularly communicating with God through prayer? Are you making your requests known to Him AND are you listen to His?
Bible study is another way of hearing from God. The Bible is the Word of God. Every time you read it you get a fresh word from Him. When you open the Word you activate Jesus, Who is the Word, and you activate the Holy Spirit Who inspired the Word, and you connect with the Father.
“But, Brad, I read the Bible a lot and I don’t hear from God,” you may be thinking.
With all due respect, it is impossible to read God’s Word and not hear from God. By it’s own testimony, God’s Word never returns void. It always has an effect on the reader or the hearer.
If you are reading the Word and finding no joy, ask yourself, “Am I reading it objectively and am I reading it obediently?” By reading it objectively I mean, are you reading with an open-mind ready to hear what God has to say through His Word? Or. Are you reading it with an agenda trying to justify a point of view or validate your own idea? If you don’t read it objectively and open to hearing from God you won’t hear from God. There is no joy in reading God’s Word to support you own bias.
If you are reading His Word with no intention of obeying it, you will not hear from God. Why should He dishonor His own Word by speaking to someone whom He knows won’t obey it.
The second answer is they hoped in God!
You could debate whether these shepherds heard from God because they were hoping in God or, if they were hoping in God because they had heard from Him. Maybe it was both!
Hope is rooted in the good news that God is still in control of this world and is working in this world to establish His Kingdom in you and through you. Hope is grounded in the reality of Christ not circumstances.
But joy is a result of hoping in God! The problems and perils and pain of everyday life will beat the hope out of you in a hurry if you do not have a reason to hope for a better day. The hope that brings joy is a hope borne out of a determination to believe in the goodness of God despite all evidence to the contrary. Hope is a decision to trust in the last Word you have heard from God until you hear a new Word from God. This hope is built on a foundation of God’s Person. It is never wavering in your belief of His holiness, and His goodness, and His power, and His purposes and His promises. Hope deliberating chooses to believe that what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal and defines reality by the invisible not what is seen.
When you go day after day in the same situation facing the same suffering and circumstances, it is easy to lose hope. But you can choose not to lose hope. Hope doggedly holds onto what you have heard from God until you hear from God again!
Hearing from God produces joy and hoping in God preserves joy!