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This Christmas reminded me of the Father’s joy when His children are excited about the gift of His Son—Jesus Christ. Our children have been ramping up for Christmas all week. Each day since Thanksgiving, they asked, “How many more days?” Maybe it would be more accurate to say all month. It is hard for me to relate to that kind of joy about Christmas.
The anticipation and thrill of Christmas are different for me. I’m on the sacrificing end of Christmas rather than the giddy receiving end. A father’s perspective and experience of Christmas are vastly different from a child’s point of view. I’m the one sacrificing, and they are the receivers of the sacrifice.
As a dad, Christmas is one of those beautiful and satisfying reminders of what it is like to have children excited about the gifts you give. I remember Christmas Eve (2014) when one of my nephews eagerly ripped into one of his presents. After he saw the gift, he immediately deflated. His countenance fell, and his lip rolled out. He was four years old. We all had a good laugh.
What he hoped would bring joy was a monumental disappointment. After receiving that not-so-thrilling gift, he expressed what many of us had inwardly thought when the disappointment came with an anticipated gift. Then there is the perfect gift. It is the child who asked for and received the thing he valued. There was an authentic joy because of the value that he ascribed to the present.
Is there anything in heaven or earth better than the value found in the richness of Jesus Christ? The Savior of the world, born in a lowly stable, is the only One worthy of your highest affection. He endured unutterable suffering because of His desire for you to be with Him. Because of God’s kindness, you experience unspeakable joy—a joy that matures in proportion to the breadth and depth of your understanding and appreciation of the gift.
Inexpressible joy is joy expressed when words fail to comprehend the present entirely. Sometimes language falls short of our attempts to express the inexpressible. When you see, feel, experience, and appreciate the Savior more than anything else and when He is your most profound and most precious treasure, you are experiencing the greatest joy that you can know.
I am aware some people did not find a lot of pleasure this Christmas. Maybe they lost a loved one this past year, or perhaps they experienced the inexpressible pain of divorce. Maybe the economy reduced their ability to provide what others commonly enjoy. Christmas is not all joy for all people all the time.
I reflect on many Christmases past where I wanted to rejoice in the good news of the baby but felt guilty because of disrupted joy. The weight of my circumstances was too heavy. I had misplaced joy. Other things took the place of my highest joy, which I should reserve for Christ. It was precisely in those moments when I needed reminding of the gospel again: a Savior was born.
Though my days fluctuated from good to bad and back to good again, the gospel does not fluctuate. A tremendous or awful Christmas does not alter the gospel. Neither does your best or worst life now. The gospel is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8), which brings you to an all-important question: are you happy?
No, really! Are you happy? I am not talking about temporary happiness governed by your circumstances or gifts received. Did those things determine your happiness? Perhaps you received everything you wanted. Maybe you were not in the mood to celebrate. Did your attitude determine your happiness?
We root Christian happiness in Christ. We embed our joy in something better, deeper, and unchanging. Christian joy transcends terrestrial giving and receiving. It’s happiness not determined or controlled by others or circumstances. The Bible teaches that we have something superior to worldly offerings. We have a Savior! Notice how Moses thought about his salvation and his appeal to be grateful for the victory you have in God.
Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord, the shield of your help, and the sword of your triumph! Your enemies shall come fawning to you, and you shall tread upon their backs (Deuteronomy 33:29).
Moses was not asking the Israelites if they were happy. He was telling them that they were happy! From Moses’ perspective, happiness is not a Christian’s question. Happiness is a condition; it is a statement of fact.
Are you? I am using the word happy and joy interchangeably. The real point is not about wordsmithing or semantics but about how Christians have more profound, sustaining, and satisfying experiences—even during difficult times. Earthly status or treasures are not how you measure joy. You measure happiness by the calm and collected assurance that a baby was born, who became the Shepherd of souls.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. . . . He restores my soul. . . . I will fear no evil, for you are with me. . . . Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever (Psalm 23:1-6).
This kind of confidence comes from knowing your happiness is not contingent on your circumstances but on your identity as a Christian. Moses said happiness comes from who you are, not what you have. “Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord” (Deuteronomy 33:29).
He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:3).
The Christian is characterized by happiness because he knows what the Father did for him by giving Jesus to save him from his sins. This attitude of gratitude situates his awareness, understanding, and application of the gospel. Hasn’t this been your experience? The more I remind myself of what God has done for me, the more the gift of gratitude matures in my soul.
It is a simple truth: though I appreciate people who do nice things for me, and thoughts of them stir joy inside, the good news is not whether I got what I wanted this Christmas or if Christmas was a bummer. I must not root my joy in those things. I must root my gratitude, happiness, joy, and thankfulness in something better—the gospel. Jesus is a more enduring gift given to us. He sustains our gratitude because He is a sustaining gift. I hope that you have a wonderful Christmas season as you continue to cherish the risen Lord throughout the year.
Happy are you, O [your name]. Who is like you, a person saved by the Lord? He is the shield of your help and the sword of your triumph. The little and big things that annoy you are nothing compared to who you are in Christ. You not only will triumph in the future, but you will live in the good of the gospel today. He finished it! He won, and He is your Savior.
Christmas has come and gone, but Jesus Christ has not (Hebrews 13:8). I hope that He will be your treasure (Matthew 6:21), and through that gift, you will find the peace that surpasses all other gifts (Philippians 4:7).
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