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We love to receive gifts -- at Christmastime and at other times. One of the greatest gifts we can receive is the gift of JOY. God loves to give us gifts; God offers the gift of JOY to every person on this earth. The Grinch (a.k.a. Satan), changes the gift from Joy to the gift of Happiness. To the untrained, and ungodly eye, these two gifts often look alike and feel alike. There is, however, a dramatic difference! So, let's unwrap the gift of Joy.

God is Joy! God loves to see his people enjoying life to the fullest -- life filled with joy. Joy is a divine trait, a characteristic of the one true God.

JOY is a gift God gives to us; HAPPINESS is a human trait, a gift we give ourselves. JOY is God-centered; HAPPINESS is self-centered. JOY, like God, is eternal and lasts forever; HAPPINESS is temporary and lasts only as long as we do. JOY depends on God -- on His majesty, His might; His wisdom; His faithfulness, His watchful care; His redeeming love; these are qualities we can trust to last forever.

HAPPINESS depends on human beings and earthly happenings; HAPPINESS basically elevates self. I'll stay with them as long as they make me happy; I'll stay with the job as long as I feel happy about my work. People change and so do situations; that's why HAPPINESS comes and goes, and is unpredictable and unstable. Apart from God, there is no JOY, only human HAPPINESS.

The Bible mentions JOY over 300 times. HAPPINESS only 30 times. The Shepherds heard the Angels proclaim, "We bring you good news of great joy -- for to you, and to all peoples everywhere, is born a Savior, who is none other than God-in-the-flesh." That's the reason for the JOY. Later, the Wise Men, when they found the Christ-Child, "rejoiced with exceeding great joy." And that is why we sing at Christmas, "Happiness to the world -- the Lord is come." NO -- we sing, "JOY to the world, the Lord has come."

Nehemiah was commissioned by God to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem -- it was a difficult task; he was threatened by enemies. Yet, he persisted because Nehemiah said: "The Joy of the Lord is my strength!" My Joy comes from the assurance that what God has called me to do, God will give me the strength to finish the job.

In Luke's Gospel, Jesus sent 70 of His followers out into the world to preach, teach and heal. They returned "...with great Joy," for they had seen the Lord work miracles. Later, James would write, "Count it all Joy when you face trials...." Be Joyful when we face trials, suffering, pain, betrayal, death? How can that be? Our Joy comes from facing the same things Jesus faced and overcame. As Jesus lived and died and rose again -- so shall we. JOY! JOY! JOY!

Our God is a God of joy. Apart from God, there is no joy, no love, no life, no light, no peace, no hope ... apart from God, we have nothing.

Christians, however, have it all -- light, life, love, joy, peace and eternal hope. JOY to one and all -- for the Lord God is with us, everywhere and forever. Unwrap the holy gift of JOY.

Don Kuehle is a retired United Methodist minister who lives in Jackson. Opinions expressed are those of the author.

Religion on 01/10/2019

Print Headline: Christ, Our Joy

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