Thursday, December 4, 2014

Joy to the World: A Holiday Devotional

And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a  manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Luke 2:7

The Christmas season is upon us, as evidenced by the twinkling lights and ornate wreathes and of course, every radio station's beloved Christmas favorites inundating the airwaves. When I listen to music generally, I'm really a words person. I have to like the message to enjoy the instrumentation. But even I get so used to the familiar melodies that I hardly take time to really hear them now. Yet the other day when I stopped to really listen to Joy to the World, I felt...well convicted, honestly.

Joy to the World
The LORD is come
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart
prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing

Joy. What, I thought, brings me joy? Particularly in this season? When's the last time I really felt real, deep, genuine, laugh-out-loud joy? I hear tales of hunting for the perfect gifts, exquisite decorations, and lovely and family gatherings and parties and the wonder of it all...and the stress of it all too...and my head spins with the busyness. And commitments as a ministry family are completely separate from that list! Is all that truly where joy comes from?

Aligned next to this beloved Christmas carol... that all seems to be in direct conflict with what it's all about. I think about that simple scene, that manger, the rough textures and cruel elements on bare skin...and yet...perfection...peace...and absolute joy. It wasn't fancy. But it was real and life changing.

Oftentimes, God's joy, what He really wants for us, is simply squelched by the constant filling and stimulation of our culture and pace, by the need for packaging and presentation. So much so that we miss the miraculous because of our obsession with the mundane. Much like the inn-keepers on that fateful night in Bethlehem, we miss out on the presence of our Savior in the midst of all the stuff with which we fill our we miss out on that real joy that we crave and that He offers so freely.

In a culture positively drenched in a lifestyle of consumption and acquisition, this verse challenged me so much. The message is that there is a need to make room, that joy only comes from becoming an empty vessel. What if I sought joy by making room, by being a person who empties, simplifies, prioritizes and surrenders...a person of singular focus on my Savior...rather than of adding, expecting, pursuing, of appointments and obligations and traditions? Then, instead of frantically racing toward my joy (and really finding only exhaustion, disappointment and unmet expectations), it would simply descend, as a dove, arriving in my heart, my home, my the stillness of sitting at the feet of my God, at that manger, on that Holy Night...

Oh, the power that lies in vacated space in our days and our busy schedules, in our traditions and our relationships...because God's presence, peace, hope and joy will come to fill it. Don't miss the possibility of true joy in this beautiful season. Determine what is excess, keep the main thing the main thing, dare to become an empty vessel, and watch God fill you with the gladness, wonder and hope that come so naturally with His presence...the very best - not acquisition - but rather, gift - that could be hoped for in this season and in life. 

Let every heart prepare Him room indeed...praying blessings and good tidings of great joy to all this season...
“Sing for joy and be glad, O daughter of Zion; for behold I am
 coming and I will dwell in your midst,” declares the LORD.
Zechariah 2:10


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