Tis the season to be busy. And tired. And tapped out. And overwhelmed. And sad. And disappointed. And broke.
We settle for happy. We settle for shtuff from Stuffmart to replace the empty places on our shelves, maybe alongside that pesky elf, and we try to make everything about just being together. Being together is good, please don’t get me wrong. Being in a room with all the people you love most and people who love and care for you most is not something to ever take for granted. We are not guaranteed it. That is for certain.
But we might miss something bigger. It might take the loss of happiness and health and loved ones to make us realize that we are missing the big picture, the end game. And that is the grace and glory of Jesus. That is the piercing debilitating truth that, as Timothy Keller likes to say, we are “far worse than we imagine” and the equally piercing and invigorating truth that “we are far more loved than we could ever dream.”
There is a comfort hard won and painfully bought. The comfort that showed up in an uncomfortable birth in a stable with dirty stinky animals and a teenage pregnancy and a humble, unambitious stepfather. We know the story, but we forget that our comfort and joy, as promised in the story itself, doesn’t come from sweet baby coos and precious gifts from important people. The tidings of comfort and joy come from the pending doom of sin and death, battled and trampled by a bloody and beaten savior.
Joy doesn’t come without great suffering. It just doesn’t. We so much want it to and we’ve spent centuries trying to manufacture it – process, buy, and sell it. (“Mostly we just want to spend time with your daughter… ” um, that’s from a movie. Moving on…)
Truth is that joy comes after dark nights. Joy comes when the final candle has flickered out. Joy comes when you just can’t muster another smile. It hits you like a ton of bricks when you are falling apart and maybe crumpled into a ball on the floor. The deepest truest comfort and joy falls on your heart and mind and soul at the first light of dawn, when the sun reminds you it still rises. Joy whispers in your ears that you are loved, so very much, and that love was secured for you at the very highest price ever. And your life is at its best when it is poured out fully so that God can pour himself fully into you. Then it will overflow and will seep into all of those around you. You won’t be able to help it. That kind of joy can’t be contained.
So empty your arms, your cups, your store-holds, your shelves, your pockets. Let God in his glorious grace unleash all of heaven’s joy on you this season. Be ready for the bittersweetness of it all. Do not be deceived by a lesser version of joy and comfort. Don’t settle for a knock-off brand that will break after a few days’ usage. Wait for the good stuff, the brand that will never need replacing or fixing. Stock up and give it away to all who need it. That would be all of us.