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Christmas reminds me of the Father’s joy when His children are excited about the gift of His Son—Jesus Christ. Our children traditionally ramp up for Christmas all week—especially when they were younger. Each day since Thanksgiving, they would ask, “How many more days?” Maybe it would be more accurate to say all month. It is hard for me to relate to their joy about Christmas because my Christmases were different from what our children experienced. Also, a father’s perspective and experience of Christmas are vastly different from a child’s point of view.
A parent is on the sacrificing end of Christmas rather than the giddy receiving end. I’m the one sacrificing, and they are the receivers of the sacrifice. But the good part for a dad makes Christmas is one of those beautiful and satisfying reminders of what it is like to have children excited about the gifts you give. I remember Christmas Eve (2014) when one of my nephews eagerly ripped into one of his presents. After he saw the gift, he immediately deflated. His countenance fell, and his lip rolled out. He was four years old. We all had a good laugh.
What he hoped would bring joy was a monumental disappointment. After receiving that not-so-thrilling gift, he expressed what many of us had inwardly thought when the blow came with an anticipated gift. Then there is the perfect gift. It is the child who asks for and receives the thing he values. There is an authentic joy because of the value he ascribes to the present. Is there anything in heaven or earth better than the value found in the richness of Jesus Christ? The Savior of the world, born in a lowly stable, is the only One worthy of our highest affection. He endured unutterable suffering because of His desire for us to be with Him.
Because of God’s kindness, we experience unspeakable joy—a joy that matures in proportion to the breadth and depth of our understanding and appreciation of the gift. Inexpressible joy is joy expressed when words fail to comprehend the present entirely. Sometimes language falls short of our attempts to express the inexpressible. When you see, feel, experience, and appreciate the Savior more than anything else and when He is your most profound and precious treasure, you are experiencing the greatest joy you can know.
I am aware some people did not find a lot of pleasure this Christmas. Maybe they lost a loved one this past year or experienced the inexpressible pain of divorce. Perhaps the economy reduced their ability to provide what others commonly enjoy. Christmas is not all joy for all people all the time. I reflect on many Christmases past where I wanted to rejoice in the good news of the baby but felt guilty because of disrupted joy. The weight of my circumstances was too heavy. I had misplaced joy and felt helpless because I could not muster genuine joy.
My losses and accompanying pain took the place of my highest joy, which I should have reserved for Christ alone. It was precisely in those moments that I needed reminding of the gospel again: a Savior was born. Though my days fluctuated from good to bad and back to good again, the gospel did not fluctuate. A tremendous or awful Christmas should not have altered the gospel. But it did. The gospel stabilizes our best or worst life challenges. The gospel is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8), which brings me to an all-important question: are you happy?
No, really! Are you happy? I am not talking about temporary happiness governed by your circumstances or gifts received. Did those things determine your satisfaction? Perhaps you received everything you wanted. Maybe you were not in the mood to celebrate. Did your attitude determine your happiness? We root Christian delight in Christ. We embed our joy in something better, deeper, and unchanging. Christian joy transcends terrestrial giving and receiving. It is happiness that is not determined or controlled by others or circumstances. The Bible teaches that we have something superior to worldly offerings. We have a Savior! Notice how Moses thought about his salvation and his appeal to be grateful for your victory in God.
Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord, the shield of your help, and the sword of your triumph! Your enemies shall come fawning to you, and you shall tread upon their backs (Deuteronomy 33:29).
Moses was not asking the Israelites if they were happy. He was telling them that they were happy! From Moses’ perspective, happiness is not a Christian’s question to ask. Happiness is a condition; it is a statement of fact. The ontological reality of happiness is part of what happens to us when Christ becomes our King.
You are happy, so are you happy? I interchangeably use the words happy, joy, delight, and satisfaction. The real point is not about wordsmithing or semantics but about how Christians have more profound, sustaining, and satisfying experiences—even during difficult times. Earthly status or treasures are not how we measure joy. We measure happiness by the calm and collected assurance that a baby was born who became the Shepherd of souls.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. . . . He restores my soul. . . . I will fear no evil, for you are with me. . . . Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever (Psalm 23:1-6).
This confidence comes from knowing your happiness is not contingent on your circumstances but on your identity as a Christian. Moses said happiness comes from who you are, not what you have.
“Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord” (Deuteronomy 33:29).
He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:3).
The Christian is characterized by happiness because he knows what the Father did for him by giving Jesus to save him from his sins. This attitude of gratitude situates his awareness, understanding, and application of the gospel. Hasn’t this been your experience? The more I remind myself of what God has done for me, the more the gift of gratitude matures in my soul. It is a simple truth: though I appreciate people who do nice things for me, and thoughts of them stir joy, the good news is not whether I got what I wanted this Christmas or if it was a bummer.
I must not root my joy in those things; I must root my gratitude, happiness, joy, and thankfulness in something better—the gospel. Jesus is a more enduring gift given to us. He sustains our gratitude because He is a sustaining gift. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas season as you cherish the risen Lord throughout the year.
Happy are you, O [your name]. Who is like you, a person saved by the Lord? He is the shield of your help and the sword of your triumph. The little and big things that annoy you are nothing compared to who you are in Christ. You not only will triumph in the future, but you will live in the good of the gospel today. He finished it! He won, and He is your Savior.
Christmas has come and gone, but Jesus Christ has not (Hebrews 13:8). I hope He will be your treasure (Matthew 6:21), and through that gift, you will find the peace that surpasses all other gifts (Philippians 4:7).
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).