This was the question pastor Drew Derreth asked during his Christmas morning sermon. As I listened, I looked around at each of my children. My three youngest were still dressed in their PJs (a privilege reserved for Christmas). I was confident they would answer with a resounding “Yes!” but I wasn’t sure about my two older children. The magic of Christmas morning seemed to be wearing a little thin for them. As Drew spoke, I tapped my eldest on the shoulder and gave him an inquisitive look. He smiled back politely. He seemed determined not to show any disappointment despite never finding the one gift (an expensive drone) under the Christmas tree. He shared his siblings’ excitement over their gifts and gave many thanks for what he received, but he seemed a little let down.
Can you relate?
Disappointment is hard to hide, especially over the long term. We may acknowledge we have no right to complain, but the life we dreamed of having is not the life we wake-up to. Our gratitude feels forced, not natural. We long for authentic joy and we do what we can to quicken its return, but no matter how hard we try we can’t seem to conjure up the deep joy we desire.
Why is it so difficult to manufacture joy?
Young children make joy look so easy. Christmas morning convinces me that they experience the most joy despite doing nothing to produce it. Mom and Dad are the ones who plan long and labor hard. They budget, shop, cook and wrap. Where are the children while the parents exhaust themselves labeling presents and tying every last bow? They are dreaming peacefully in their beds. Strangely, childrens’ joy seems the greatest because they don’t have to work for it. Kids need to do only one thing excellently in order to experience pure, raw joy. They need to know how to receive gifts — something every kid does instinctively.
If you are finding it hard to manufacture joy, maybe you’ve forgotten the secret every child knows instinctively — joy comes most naturally from receiving and delighting in good gifts.
The Bible, like the old Sears catalog, inventories all kinds of wonderful gifts God has to offer, but the best gift is pictured for us in Isaiah 9:6. The good news for all who circle this gift and place it on their list is that they are guaranteed to receive it.
“For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)
This gift provides the greatest joy because God, the most lavish giver, knows we crave a “who” more than a “what”. Lasting joy comes from a person; not a religious ritual, nor a set of wisdom principles, nor moral victory, nor any created thing. This incredible person, though born in weakness as a child, will carry all authority and power on His shoulders. As such, he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. As a Wonderful Counselor he will prove himself not only wise, but also gentle and loving and good. He will reveal precious insights about God, ourselves and our world. Even though he is born a child, he will be called Mighty God. As fully God and fully man, he will reconcile man fully to God. As Everlasting Father he will dote upon His children and eagerly attend to all their needs and concerns. As the Prince of Peace he will end all strife and alienation: spiritually toward God, relationally toward one another, psychologically toward oneself.
If you didn’t get that one gift you desired this Christmas, look past all the ribbons and bows and see Jesus. Take him for yourself and discover the desires of your heart. He alone can restore a deep and lasting joy.