Today I accomplished one of my least favorite tasks of the year. Taking down the Christmas decorations always makes me a bit melancholy. One of our Christmas staples is a yard display that spells out “Joy”. The sign is simple yet the nativity scene incorporated into the letters clearly communicates our feelings about what this holiday represents. As I took down the display I thought about the reason I love this decoration so much.
Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great JOY to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! (Luke 2, NLT)
That is where I place my joy as I head into a unstable New Year. I find my joy in the Messiah, the Lord – who was born in the city of David. It is so easy to remember the reason for joy during the Christmas season. But now that we are past this wonderful season it is very easy to pack my joy away and unpack lots of worry. The twenty-four news cycle feeds on negativity and hearing the message of gloom and doom over and over has it’s effect. Our country is going through a difficult period but you would think the apocalypse is directly upon us when you watch the cable news networks. The news reporters peddle fear and I choose not to buy it. The angel of the Lord told the shepherds not to be afraid. Jesus talked a lot about fear.
“But don’t be afraid of those who threaten you. For the time is coming when everything that is covered will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all. What I tell you now in the darkness, shout abroad when daybreak comes. What I whisper in your ear, shout from the housetops for all to hear! Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. (Matthew 10 – NLT)
And these words from Jesus could have been in response to the news reporting hysteria we hear nearly every day.
“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing. Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things? Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.” (Luke 12, NLT)
I believe those words. I may not have all that I want but I trust God to provide what I need. In America we too often confuse those concepts.
So I have made some decisions. I don’t make vows because I know I will fail at some point. Making a vow dooms me to failure. Choosing a direction allows me to stumble off course now and then but then get right back on track.
I have decided to direct my time a little differently this year. I want to spend less time watching and reading the news and more time reading and meditating on God’s Word. I want to pray for our leaders in Washington but I am going to trust God to provide my hope. I want to live joyfully in each precious moment that God gives me and not live in paralyzing fear of the future.
My retirement is shaky but my family is healthy. That gives me joy.
My house lost value but my family grew in faith. That gives me joy.
The world is volatile but my assurance is solid and built on the Rock. That gives me joy.
I have packed away the joy decoration for this year but I want to unpack the joy that Christ gives me every single day in 2009. You can do that too. May you have a joyful New Year in spite of your circumstance.