How I love to study the Christmas story! From the knowledge that Elizabeth and Zacharias will never have a baby and to the exciting yet unexpected visit of the Magi, I find myself knee deep in the beautiful and heavenly wrappings of this story that never grows old.
Will you join me this year? Will you join my Christmas caravan and travel with me to the only holiday destination that really matters? Will you go with me to Bethlehem and to the heart of God? Let's begin with a stop at Elizabeth and Zacharias' lovely home.
Elizabeth was basking in the miracle of a surprise pregnancy, even though she was well past the age of childbearing. When Elizabeth was in her sixth month, Mary, her much younger relative, arrived at her house for a surprise visit. A heavenly messenger had just informed Mary that she had been chosen to carry the Savior of the world.
Mary "went in a hurry" to the home of Elizabeth, the wife of a priest who had also been raised in the home of a priest. Perhaps Mary was longing for the stability and peace found in Elizabeth's home. Perhaps Mary was trying to escape the wagging tongues and crude remarks made at the village well. Perhaps Mary's parents sent her to the older and wiser Elizabeth because they didn't know what else to do with the outrageous story their formerly perfect young daughter had surely fabricated.
When Mary entered the home of Zacharias and Elizabeth, the baby boy within the womb of Elizabeth jumped for joy. The instant that John, although unborn, sensed that he was in the presence of Jesus the Messiah, he began to leap for joy.
John, although still in his mother's womb and unable to see Jesus with his natural eyes, knew he was in the presence of the Lord. There is only one possible response to the presence of the Lord, and that is pure and exuberant joy. Elizabeth must have looked with eyes wide open and sparkling at Mary as she expressed that this was no soft little nudging which she felt from the baby within but that it was a gargantuan leap. John was exploding with joy at being in the presence of Jesus.
"In Your presence is fullness of joy!" (Ps. 16:11b).
The spirit of John was responding to the Spirit of Jesus Christ, where there is always fullness of joy.
When Jesus walks into our world, into our lives and into our homes, we must respond with complete joy. Our heart should begin the John-jump!
In His presence is the only place you will ever experience true and complete joy. Joy is not found in having your children home for Christmas, in giving and receiving mountains of gifts, in decorating the house like a picture in a magazine or in eating culinary concoctions that will satisfy your holiday taste buds. Those earthly delights are all connected to happiness but never to joy. Joy is found in one place and one place alone: in His presence.
Perhaps especially at Christmastime, we are guilty of looking for joy in all the wrong places. This Christmas, make room for His presence. Spend time with your friends and family singing the beloved carols of Christmas; read the story of His birth from the Bible with those you love. The greatest gift you will ever give to someone you love is the promise to pray for his or her heartfelt needs.
When Elizabeth told Mary that the baby within her womb "leaped for joy", the word used to describe this action is the Greek word skirtao, used only one other place in the New Testament.
"'Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they separate you from their company and insult you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day, and leap [skirtao] for joy, for indeed, your reward is great in heaven. For in like manner their fathers treated the prophets'" (Luke 6:22-23).
The presence of Jesus will instigate a genuine leap for joy in an otherwise ordinary life. However, we are also expected to leap for joy when our life has fallen utterly and completely apart. When we have been vilified and rejected by people, and when we have been victimized by unfair circumstances, this the time we are commanded by Jesus to skirtao: to leap for joy.
There is no logical explanation for this joyful response in the face of emotional pain and deep disappointment, but it is the healthiest response for a believer. You can jump. You can do the John-jump at the worst moment of your life because Jesus has promised never to leave you or forsake you.
This Christmas, respond to the joy of His presence, especially if you are going through dark events and disappointing circumstances.
Christmas has given us the assurance that while living on earth, we can be the beneficiaries of heaven's joy. When Jesus came, He paved the way for joy.
Don't expect the festivities to relieve the pain; only His presence can do that for you! When Jesus came to planet Earth, He paved the way for heaven's joy to infiltrate our lives.
My prayer for you during this Christmas season is that you will know the joy of the presence of the Lord. I pray that, like John, you will respond to His presence in the most miraculous of ways. I pray you will not mistakenly believe that joy is extracted from your circumstances but that you will worship the baby in the manger and allow your heart to enter fully into the joy of Christmas.
Carol McLeod is an author and popular speaker at women's conferences and retreats, where she teaches the Word of God with great joy and enthusiasm. Carol encourages and empowers women with passionate and practical biblical messages mixed with her own special brand of hope and humor. She has written 10 books, including The Rooms of a Woman's Heart; Defiant Joy!;Holy Estrogen!; No More Ordinary; Refined; Joy For All Seasons; Let There Be Joy!; Pass the Joy, Please!; Guide Your Mind, Guard Your Heart, Grace Your Tongue; and Stormproof, which releases on March 1, 2019. Her teaching DVD, The Rooms of a Woman's Heart, won the Telly Award, a prestigious industry award for excellence in religious programming. You can also listen to Carol's "Jolt of Joy" program daily on the Charisma Podcast Network. Connect with Carol or inquire about her speaking to your group at carolmcleodministries.com.
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