I think it is truly possible to have a miserable Christmas. We can get so caught up in all the hoopla of gift-giving, we convince ourselves that if we don't find a certain gift, we are not a good husband or wife or father or mother or friend...and so on.
Then again, perhaps you are going through a hardship right now, and Christmas is a difficult time for you. Maybe you can't wait for the holidays to be over.
We need to get back to the original idea of what Christmas is all about: joy. It is about joy because a Savior has been born.
When Gabriel appeared to Mary to announce that she was to be the mother of the Messiah, he said to her, "Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!" (Luke 1:28).
And rejoice is exactly what Mary did. In what we call the Magnificat, Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior" (Luke 1:46-47).
Luke 2 tells us that the angel said to the shepherds, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy" — not just joy, but great joy. In fact, we can find three things in this passage that show us how to find joy in Christmas.
First, there is the condition of joy. The angel said, "Do not be afraid..." (verse 10). In Jesus' day, there were a lot of things to be afraid of. The Jews were living under the reign of the tyrant Herod, who could execute at will, in a land that was occupied by the Romans.
They were fearful about their future. Would they ever be free again? Would the Messiah ever come?
Of course, we are also living in fearful times today. As we look at the things going on in our nation and in our world, it can strike fear in our hearts. And fear robs us of our joy. As Ray Stedman has said, "The chief mark of the Christian ought to be the absence of fear and the presence of joy."
The angel's message to the shepherds was this: "Don't be afraid. The Messiah has come. This is good news that you need to know so you can have great joy."
Fear is what Christ came to remove so that we can have great joy. But the condition of that joy is to let go of our fear.
Second, there is the call of joy. The angel said, "Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy..." (verse 10 NKJV). In other words, even if you don't feel like it, rejoice, because your world has changed.
Friedrich Nietzsche once told some Christians, "If you want me to believe in your redeemer, you are going to have to look a lot more redeemed." Do you look redeemed?
This doesn't mean that Christians must walk around with permanent smiles. But it is a powerful testimony when Christians can rejoice, even in the midst of adversity. Joy is a magnet God has given to believers.
Third, there is the cause of joy: "For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord" (verse 11). Note three words that are used here: Savior. Christ. Lord.
If we want to have joy, then let it be because we have a Savior. Jesus came to save us from the power and penalty of sin. Whatever we are going through in life, we can remember that we have a Savior.
We also have a Christ. The name "Christ" means "anointed one." The Hebrew version would be "Messiah." Jesus is the fulfillment of God's promise to the Jewish people to send His Son as the Messiah.
It is a reminder that God keeps His promises. We have a Savior who has forgiven us. We have a Messiah who keeps His promises.
Finally, we have a Lord — not just a companion and not just a buddy. We have a Lord, which means we have someone to direct us in the way we should go in life. We have someone who will protect us as we go in that way, and someone who will welcome us into heaven when this life is over.
We have a Savior. We have a Christ. We have a Lord. And that is all we need to have a joyful Christmas.