Have a Holy, Joyful Christmas
by Jessica L. Lehman
Christmas is coming! It’s a time for holiday happiness. Advertisements on TV and the internet tell you if you buy these toys, watch this show or dress like these people, then you’ll be happy all the time.
But does God make the same promise?
Get out your Bible, look up these verses and write down how many times the word happy appears.
- 1 Peter 1:16
- 1 Thessalonians 4:7
- John 15:11
The answer is zero. You probably found God wants you to be holy and have His joy, right?
In most Bible translations, the word happy doesn’t appear anywhere in the New Testament. And the Old Testament uses happy to describe people who follow God or who God disciplines.
Joy to the World
Following Jesus doesn’t guarantee happiness. In fact, the opposite is true. Jesus told His disciples that people would most likely hate them, because they hated Him (John 15:18-19). Jesus wasn’t happy all the time. He cried. He felt disappointment at people’s actions.
But Jesus understood joy. He “endured a cross and despised the shame” because of “the joy that lay before Him” (Hebrews 12:2).
Talking about Jesus’ death during the celebration of His birth seems strange. His birth in a stable was a happy event, while His crucifixion made His friends sad. Yet Jesus rejoiced and felt joy because He knew what would happen afterward. Sin would be defeated, He would rise again and the gift of forgiveness would be available to every person in the world!
Happiness depends on your circumstances right now. Getting an A on a test, eating chocolate cake, making the team or getting a present you wanted for Christmas makes you happy.
But what if you study hard and get a C, or if the cake goes stale, or if you get injured during practice or if your parents miss all the hints about what you wanted for Christmas?
That’s where joy comes in.
Because happiness is a feeling, it often fades to sadness. But even when you feel sad, you can still have joy. Joy isn’t a feeling. Joy comes from understanding good things will come in this life an in your future in heaven.
When Jesus spoke to His disciples about His impending death, He encouraged them to hold on to joy. He knew they’d be sad when he went back to heaven, so He said: “You also have sorrow now. But I will see you again. Your hearts will rejoice, and no one will rob you of your joy” (John 16:22).
You can stay joyful–even when you’re sad or people hate you–by thinking about God and His promises. When you believe in Jesus as your Savior, you’re guaranteed to live forever with Him. No matter what happens, you can always rejoice (Philippians 4:4).
Holy, Holy, Holy
Going back to the Bible verses you looked up, notice that God didn’t say, “Be happy because I am happy.” He didn’t call you “to happiness.” Instead, God talked about being holy and sanctified.
These words mean you should be “different,” “set apart,” “pure” and “good.” When you believe in Jesus and become a Christian, God takes away your sins. He wants you to follow him, which means you give up old habits and bad behaviors.
But you don’t become holy through your own efforts. Following a huge list of things you shouldn’t do will only make you tired and frustrated. God is holy, good, loving, truthful, just and forgiving. He wants you to live like that too. When you ask for help, you’re able to live differently.
Being holy won’t get you to heaven–Jesus took care of that on the Cross. You act differently because you love God and want to be like Him.
Wanting to be happy isn’t wrong. Knowing God does bring happiness. God is good (Psalm 31:19). He takes away fear (Psalm 94:19), and He gives good gifts (James 1:17). Some of those gifts include your family, friends, church and home. Those things should make you happy. The important thing is not to lose your joy when life doesn’t go how you hoped.
So this Christmas, don’t wish people “Happy Holidays.” Wish them a joyful Christmas. Then get ready to celebrate the arrival of your Holy Savior!
Always showing love and making good decisions isn’t easy. You can listen to the Adventures in Odyssey album 54, Clanging Cymbals…and the Meaning of God’s Love, for ideas. And you can try these:
- Have patience when your little brother annoys you.
- Compliment your friends instead of bragging about what you can do.
- Share a cookie with the shy kid in the lunchroom.
- Memorize Bible verses so you tell others what it says.
- Avoid sarcastic or snark comments.
- Work hard on your chores and schoolwork.
- Show compassion and forgiveness toward people who don’t like you.
This article originally appeared in the December 2019 issue of Clubhouse Magazine.