[Jesus] went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:16-21).
Jesus’ statement struck a chord with the crowd. They knew he had read a portion of what today we call Isaiah 61, a passage that foretold the role of the coming Messiah. They were also familiar with what the passage continued to say after Jesus stopped reading.
[T]o comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor (Isaiah 61:3).
Three decades earlier, the angels had proclaimed Good News to the shepherds. “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord (Luke 2:10-11).
Joy! There was a common theme. The arrival of the Savior was accompanied by joy. Implicit in Jesus’ announcement of His mission was the presence of joy. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Christians are established in joy.
And yet, why does joy seem so elusive, even for Christians? Perhaps the answer stems from the misunderstanding of what joy really is.
Happiness and joy are not synonymous. The outward expressions may be similar, but their origins are different.
Happiness is a state of well being in response to satisfying or pleasurable experiences. It is based on circumstances outside of our control. When situations change for the worse, we are no longer happy.
Joy is an inward contentment that is not dependent on situations or people. It originates from our faith in Christ, who is our everlasting source. Joy is constant throughout the extreme ups and downs of life. No matter what happens, we have joy in our eternal inheritance through Jesus.
Joy is a choice.
It was a choice during the birth of Christ. God’s kingdom had come to earth. The shepherds responded, while the rest of Bethlehem remained unaware, cramped in the miserable conditions of an overcrowded city.
It was a choice during the ministry of Christ. Some people opened their hearts to the healing, deliverance, and teachings of the Messiah. Others spurned the gifts of God.
It is a choice for us today. Will we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and His eternal kingdom? Or will we remain stuck in the circumstances of the here and now? We thrive when we choose joy.
Joy to the world, the Lord has come!
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16).
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near (Philippians 4:4-5).
Heavenly Father, with the angels we rejoice in the birth of your Son. In this great mystery, we find the only joy that never fades – it is an eternal joy! Bring us under Your lordship. Teach us to walk in Your joy. May the world see Your glory through us, and worship Christ as their King. In His name. Amen.