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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. My children have been ramping up for Christmas all week. Maybe it would be more accurate to say all month. Each day since Thanksgiving, they asked, “How many more days?” It is hard for me to remember that kind of joy about Christmas.
The anticipation and thrill of Christmas are different for me now. 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. It is the giver and receiver’s perspectives—the one sacrificing and the one receiving 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. They express joy based on the value they attribute to the object of their joy. The more value they ascribe to the object, the more joy they show when they think about the object.
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. He expressed what many of us have inwardly thought after receiving that not-so-thrilling 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 ascribed to the present. God made us able to express satisfaction based on perceived value. If you received a long-anticipated or cherished gift, you probably expressed great joy because you received something you valued.
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 your attempts to express the inexpressible.
When you see, feel, experience, and appreciate the Savior more than anything else in your life and when He is your deepest and most precious treasure, you are experiencing the greatest joy that can be known.
I am aware that some people did not find a lot of pleasure at Christmas as I write this piece. Maybe they lost a loved one this past year. 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 baby’s good news 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 traditionally 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 vacillate. 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. Perhaps you received everything you wanted. Did those things determine your happiness? Maybe you were not in the mood to celebrate. Did your attitude determine your happiness?
Christian happiness is rooted in Christ. Our happiness is rooted in something better, deeper, and unchanging. Christian joy transcends terrestrial giving and receiving. It’s happiness not determined or controlled by others or your circumstances.
The Bible teaches that you have something superior to worldly offerings. You 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 question you ask a Christian. Happiness is a condition; it is a statement of fact.
I am using the word happy and joy interchangeably. The real point is not about semantics but about how Christians have deeper, sustaining, and satisfying experiences—even during difficult times. Earthly status or treasures are not how you measure joy. You measure joy 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. 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).
The Christian is characterized by happiness because he is aware of 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: I appreciate people who do nice things for me. Thoughts of them stir joy inside. The good news is not whether you got what you wanted this Christmas or if Christmas was a bummer. Your joy is not rooted in those things. Your gratitude, happiness, joy, and thankfulness are rooted in something better—a nice thing God did for you.
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).
Jesus is a more enduring gift given to you. He sustains your gratitude because He is a sustaining gift. I hope that you have a wonderful Christmas season as you continue to cherish the risen Lord.
One last thing: Carefully read my paraphrase of Deuteronomy 33:29 and insert your name in place of Israel: Happy are you, O ______________.
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 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).