Advent Week Two: What Joy in the Lord? Turning Christmas Chaos into Christmas Joy, Embrace Uncertainty! Luke 2:8-20

Luke 2:8-20 Common English Bible

Announcement to shepherds

Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified.

10 The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. 11 Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. 12 This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said, 14 “Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.”

15 When the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go right now to Bethlehem and see what’s happened. Let’s confirm what the Lord has revealed to us.” 16 They went quickly and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they reported what they had been told about this child. 18 Everyone who heard it was amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 Mary committed these things to memory and considered them carefully.  20 The shepherds returned home, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. Everything happened just as they had been told.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

It’s better to give than to receive, as the saying goes.

This Christmas season, however, I must definitely admit that I find both giving and receiving quite difficult.

Some people – my wife. for example – seem to have no problem buying gifts, giving gifts and receiving gifts all with the very same wide smile on her face.

I, however, am pretty much the polar opposite, I prefer being self-sufficient.

That feels safer somehow.

It does not seem to matter what the gift is: someone’s time, money, or material possessions, there are definite moments when I genuinely fear that one feeling of being incredibly burdensome or way over the top indebted to the gift-giver.

On the other side of the equation, I want to have a generous heart in giving, but worry that whatever my gifts to someone else will be, they will be insufficient.

Truth is this … Buying, Giving and Receiving all require personal vulnerability.

They are foundational expressions of love, and love requires vulnerability. 

Deep within our hearts, this need to express our love as buying, giving and receiving is essential at all times of the year, but the Christmas holidays can be a very great reminder to recommit to practices that have fallen by the wayside.

As I reflect on God’s generous love and faithfulness to me this past year, I am compelled to not only pass that generous love along to others, but to try to allow them to pass it back on to me in the spirit I originally passed it to them.

Faithful to this call to love, I must surrender my fears and insecurities to God.

In receiving God’s gift of love – His Son, to me, I have to be able to acknowledge that God often chooses to express that same measured love through His people.

It may come in the form of a kind word, an investment of time, an act of service, or a material gift – it may come some other more quieter way – this devotional.

But, it all requires a very definite, decisive and intentional act of vulnerability!

And that very definite, decisive and intentional act causes great internal chaos.

Right Gift – Right Intentions – Right Time?

Right Gift – Right Intentions – Wrong Time?

Right -Gift – Right Intentions – Insensitive to the Moment Wrong Time!

Right Gift – Wrong Intentions – Insensitive to the Moment Wrong Time!

Wrong Gift – Wrong Intentions – Insensitive to the Moment Wrong Time!

Wrong Gift – Heartless Intentions – Deliberate Infliction of Great Distress!

How can we know the true nature of our hearts when that moment arrives?

How prepared are we to receive that moment, under what and whose mindset?

Much Fear and Trembling, Stressed Out and uncertain degrees of Uncertainty?

With “Joy to the World” “Ear to Ear Smiles” Tidings of Good News, Great Joy?

I mean who wants Christmas to be that time of the year when friendship is lost?

Who wants Christmas to be that one time of the year when God’s greatest gift of the very tiniest of miracles goes, unrevealed, unnoticed, untried, unembraced?

Luke 2:8-14New English Translation

The Shepherds’ Visit

Now[a] there were shepherds[b] nearby[c] living out in the field, keeping guard [d] over their flock at night. An[e] angel of the Lord[f] appeared to[g] them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were absolutely terrified.[h] 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid! Listen carefully,[i] for I proclaim to you good news[j] that brings great joy to all the people: 11 Today[k]  your Savior is born in the city[l] of David.[m] He is Christ[n] the Lord. 12 This[o]  will be a sign[p] for you: You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger.”[q] 13 Suddenly[r] a vast, heavenly army[s] appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory[t] to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among people[u] with whom he is pleased!”[v]

The shepherds were going about their every day business of being a shepherd.

Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord took over their senses and shone around them and they were absolutely terrified!

Friend to Friend

How many of us take some medication for stress-related causes each week.

During the holiday season, how many millions of people battle what experts refer to as the holiday blues?

Being a retired Psychiatric Nurse I am very familiar with anxiety, depression and the amount of pain it holds, must constantly battle to stay out of that pit.

Now, what can we do to turn it around – maybe bring out the Joy of the Season?  

To correctly address anxieties and depression and other mental health issues, we must first come to a place of total surrender to God and His plan of healing, even if, in our current mental states we cannot see or understand that plan.

Remember that the bottom line of God’s heart is always toward His children is always about a safe, secure connection, relationship restoration and healing.

Always seek out professional help from Licensed Mental Health Professionals.

I thoroughly believe in my God’s power of bringing restoration and Shalom. I can say that I have been healed and can reflect upon many “mini-miracles!”

However, I also deeply believe that we also need the presence of Mental Health Professionals to help us sort out what is real from what is not, to talk things out with another human being and if we need Medication, then it can be prescribed.

We are each given by God certain spiritual gifts which God expects us to use to compassionately give support, build up and edify the Children of His Kingdom.

Over time, God brings together those whom He uniquely gifts with patience and love and brings together those who have been uniquely gifted with the ability to sit still and listen with those who find themselves in highest need of those gifts.

Our own benevolent and charitable God gave some the gift of compassion which they deeply, and desperately want nothing more than to give it away to another.

God has a definite plan for healing and restoration, we just need to give Him the time, season, the circumstance upon which we finally experience His Presence!

But will we on this day, this season, receive the gift in the spirit in which it was first given – will we even consider allowing ourselves to be healed of ourselves?

Luke 2:15-20New English Translation

15 When[a] the angels left them and went back to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, that the Lord[b] has made known to us.” 16 So they hurried off and located Mary and Joseph, and found the baby lying in a manger.[c] 17 When[d] they saw him,[e] they related what they had been told[f] about this child, 18 and all who heard it were astonished[g] at what the shepherds said. 19 But Mary treasured up all these words, pondering in her heart what they might mean.[h] 20 So[i] the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising[j] God for all they had heard and seen; everything was just as they had been told.[k]

My own experience ….  

While I am not a big fan of television, perusing all of the myriad channels of this programmatic offering or that, I do enjoy watching home improvement shows.

On a recent program, an interior decorator and homeowner were discussing a list of great big changes that needed to be made in order to update their home.

“First, foremost, we have to do something about those windows,” the decorator announced. I was surprised that she listed this task first – until I saw the house.

The existing glass was not only a seriously ugly shade of gold, but it was thick and chunky as well.

The windows let in no light and made it virtually impossible to see in or out.

The result was a dark isolated home.

The distressed homeowner protested, “But I like my privacy.

And if I thought anyone could see in, I feel totally exposed, and vulnerable.”

When it comes to dealing with mental health, many people feel the same way.  

Sometimes without even trying, sometimes quite purposely, we will construct walls over which no one would climb because the cost of friendship is too high.

We fill the windows of our soul with emotional excuses in order to avoid dealing with pain.

The result is darkness, loneliness, and missed opportunities for restoration.

We do not always want to understand our mental health when things trail off, depression or find the treasures of that darkness; we simply want to be rid of it.

Many people will only try to cope, understand and deal with their mental health issues on a superficial level – just refusing to confront head on, to face painful experiences, difficult relationships, and the broken places where darkness lives.

We have this tendency to only look for the nearest, quickest exit, hoping to ease by, to subtly bypass transparency because the price is just far too high to pay.

Emotional integrity is an essential step to dealing with mental health issues.

Embracing the critical importance of taking care of our mental health issues.

Embracing God with the same fervor and Joy as God is Embracing Joyfully Us.

Luke 2:15New English Translation

15 When[a] the angels left them and went back to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, that the Lord[b] has made known to us.”

As God revealed His Glory to the Shepherds,

God is revealing His Glory to us even today ….

At least He is trying to reveal it to us ….

God showed the Shepherds where to look ….

God even told the Shepherds what and who to look for ….

God told them and showed them exactly where their mini-miracle was,

God is always trying impossibly, indescribably hard to get our attention!

We must be real with God as God is being real with us

We must be real before God we can be right with ourselves.

We must be willing to raise ourselves up and go and see this “mini-miracle!”

Leave the places where we are used to being both comfortable, uncomfortable.

Actively, with great and greater and greatest intention, seek our miracle of joy.

Until we are willing to risk everything with being 100% transparent with God, we can neither be transparent with ourselves, understand nor effectively deal with our mental health issues during the holidays or any other time of the year.

The holiday season always seem to tug harder and harder at the masks we carefully hold in place, push the emotional buttons we desperately try to hide.

The arrival of certain family members can resurrect uncomfortable and painful issues that have just kind of wallowed in our souls, never really been resolved.

Financial pressure to “get up and go” travel, try to buy all of those “right gifts” opens up like a widening sinkhole, waiting to steal our joy, destroy our peace.

Personal schedules, meeting all our demands, demands of family, of friends demand every ounce of energy, false expectations leave us empty and hollow.

The dark and ever widening and deepening pit waits for us to stumble, fall in.

We can choose to make this Christmas different.

We can choose to embrace God as God embraces us ….

We can choose to embrace baby Immanuel as baby Immanuel longs for and desperately needs and requires the embrace of His mother and his father.

Immanuel, God with us ….

Immanuel, God within us ….

Immanuel, God within us …. the miracle of life soon to be revealed in us ….

We can choose to embrace His Son Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

We can choose to embrace God the Holy Spirit as we are embraced, prayed for.

We can choose to give God praise.

We can choose to give Jesus our presence ….

We can choose to give the Holy Spirit our prayers ….

Choose to focus on the victories and joys we have experienced during the year, and then intentionally find new ways to share that victory and joy with others.

This season of Christmas can be a miracle of true celebration of fresh starts and new beginnings if we choose to focus on the miracle of a tiny little baby born in a manger, who came with a miraculous message, to save us and give us true life.

The darkness can be effectively addressed if we will deliberately, intentionally raise up from our places and go, choose to face and deal with whatever it holds.

Now It’s Our Turn to Get Up and Raise up ….

Read Luke 2:1-20.

Invite that infant into your life ….

Sit down next to that infant, Immanuel ….

Sit with Mary and Joseph ….

Sit in the coldness and the darkness of night which they did ….

Together, answer these questions after reading with them the Christmas story.

  • What was the attitude of Mary and Joseph as they traveled to Bethlehem?
  • How did the shepherds react to the news of Jesus’ birth? What did they do?
  • How would you describe the emotions and thoughts of Mary, of Joseph, of You?
  • How can your choice to “ponder” the miracles of Jesus’ birth change theirs and your personal perspective of the holiday season?

Get to know the true God and His Son, Immanuel through the Holy Scriptures.

Write a letter of commitment to that infant Jesus, asking Him to empower the choices you have made.

Make a plan or a list of “dos” and “don’ts” that will help you experience the best holiday season of your life.

Include this “first family”, and your family in making this plan, and make the prayerful commitment to covenant with God, to hold each other accountable.

Right now, choose the attitude of those shepherds, choose an attitude of joy by focusing your mind on the tiny things of heaven – not earth, and by fixing your heart on baby Jesus Christ -our Christmas chaos will turn into Christmas joy!

This year be determined to give gifts generously and to receive them graciously, because God was highly determined to give us the very best gift possible. I know both the acts of giving and receiving reflect God’s generous love unto the world.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

42 As a deer[c] longs[d] for streams of water,
so I long[e] for you, O God!
I thirst[f] for God,
for the living God.
I say,[g] “When will I be able to go and appear in God’s presence?”[h]
I cannot eat; I weep day and night.[i]
All day long they say to me,[j] “Where is your God?”
I will remember and weep.[k]
For I was once walking along with the great throng to the temple of God,
shouting and giving thanks along with the crowd as we celebrated the holy festival.[l]
Why are you depressed,[m] O my soul?[n]
Why are you upset?[o]
Wait[p] for God!
For I will again give thanks
to my God for his saving intervention.[q]
I am depressed,[r]
so I will pray to you while in the region of the upper Jordan,[s]
from Hermon,[t] from Mount Mizar.[u]
One deep stream calls out to another[v] at the sound of your waterfalls;[w]
all your billows and waves overwhelm me.[x]
By day the Lord decrees his loyal love,[y]
and by night he gives me a song,[z]
a prayer[aa] to the God of my life.
I will pray[ab] to God, my high ridge:[ac]
“Why do you ignore[ad] me?
Why must I walk around mourning[ae]
because my enemies oppress me?”
10 My enemies’ taunts cut me to the bone,[af]
as they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”[ag]
11 Why are you depressed,[ah] O my soul?[ai]
Why are you upset?[aj]
Wait for God!
For I will again give thanks
to my God for his saving intervention.[ak]

Father, I want this holiday season to be filled with light instead of darkness. Please help me discard my emotional masks and be real before You as well as my family and friends. Father, help me make this holiday season an offering of praise to You.

In Immanuel’s most blessed and precious Name,
Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.

Author: Thomas E Meyer Jr

Formerly Homeless Sinner Now, Child of God, Saved by Grace.

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