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What moment in your life has brought the greatest joy? Maybe it was the birth of a child or grandchild. Maybe it was your wedding day. Maybe it was the day you got your perfect job. But are these really moments of joy? Or is this happiness?
What’s the difference between joy and happiness? Happiness is an emotion you feel based on your circumstances. It’s similar to other emotions such as sadness, anger, or excitement. In contrast, joy is a mindset. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
We are to be joyful always. This isn’t a sometimes, maybe emotion that comes and goes based on your circumstances. Joy should be a constant mindset for Christians. At Christmas, we are reminded of the reason for this joy. Luke 2:8-12 tells us what the source of our joy should be:
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Jesus is the source of our joy. Our joy is based on God coming to earth as a baby to be our Savior. Our joy is based on his redeeming work on the cross to pay the penalty for sin and bring us salvation. 1 Peter 1:8-9 says:
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
This is why a Christian’s joy isn’t based on circumstances. If your joy is based on Christ’s work of salvation, your joy should be constant. It doesn’t depend on whether you have the best home or the highest income or the most power. It doesn’t depend on whether you are hungry or cold or devastated or depressed. It doesn’t depend on whether you have great friends or whether you are being persecuted for your faith. If you are a Christian, your joy is solidly based on your salvation that comes through Jesus, and that never changes.
Not only do you have joy because of your salvation, but the Bible says that if we remain in Jesus, our joy will be complete. John 15:9-11 says:
[Jesus said,] “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
This Christmas, as you get entrenched in activities and gifts and family, remember the real reason for your joy—a tiny baby who came humbly to earth to save you from your sins. Keep him as the focus of your life, and you will experience joy in all circumstances.
Don’t forget to follow along with our Advent calendar! All the verses this week speak about the message of Joy.