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“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’” (Luke 2:10–11, NLT).

A bit of joy will do. But “great joy”? Is it almost too much to hope for?

Where did all the Christmas joy go? How did things get so complicated? So rushed? So squeezed and cluttered? It doesn’t have to be that way. We can choose to step aside, step into a quieter moment, and read the angel’s words that came on that night that changed the world.

Just another night of work in the field for shepherds. A chill in the air, with serenity and boredom. Another night of work like a thousand nights before when King David was just a boy and had stood watch in the same fields. Life hadn’t changed in a millennium. And then everything would change in a single night.

When the angel appeared, beaming with a glorious light that could only be the glory of God Himself, those men and boys who were used to fending off wild beasts to protect their sheep were reduced to terror. Were they convinced by the simple words: “I bring you good news that will cause great joy”? Probably not. Joy would have to come later. They would have to see the proof itself.

That’s the way it works with joy. Real joy is never something that originates from within—it has to come to us from without. Trying to find joy by getting it out of yourself is like believing a river can flow uphill.

Maybe that’s one of the reasons why so many have a hard time finding joy at Christmas. Bite into a Christmas cookie, and you might enjoy it. Open a shiny package, and you might enjoy what you find inside. But joy itself—in its true and pure form—is so much more than enjoyment. Joy is the startling realization that God really has claimed territory in this world. He’s taken back what belongs to Him. And then joy is a thirst that doesn’t want to be quenched, a hunger that knows it will go on and on.

It’s a good thing to never get enough of God. And best of all, this joy about a royal entry into the world is “great” because it is everywhere. A joy “for all the people.”

Right here, right now—that means me and it means you.

Prayer: Dear God, turn my fear into great joy.

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