Joy (true joy) to the world
God wants you to be happy. That is a big part of the reason he sent his Son. How do I know this? Because when the angels announced his birth, both to his mother, Mary, and to the shepherds that came to worship him, they said so.
In Luke 1:30, the angel said to Jesus’ mother, "Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God." In Luke 2:10, the angel says to the shepherds, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people."
The Greek words used for "favor" and "joy" are charis and chara, two nouns of the same derivative. One of the definitions of charis is "that which afford to joy, pleasure, delight." It also implies goodwill, grace, blessing and the translated word used here: favor. Chara is generally translated as "joy" or "gladness." The verb form of the word is chairo: "to be glad" or "to rejoice."
This is how the birth of the Messiah was announced. The same Messiah whose birth led to Herod’s orders to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under. The same Messiah who was brutally beaten and wrongfully executed. The same Messiah whose disciples were chased, imprisoned, tortured, and killed. So how could
the angels promise blessings of joy that would cause us to be happy?
Christmas time can be very difficult. Those who have lost loved ones to distance or death suffer loneliness. Others dread the tension that comes with family gatherings. Many feel the financial pressure that comes with giving material gifts. We may sing "Joy to the World," but there is little happiness. And yet, we are told, this is a time of joy. How is this so?
Consider other scriptures where the same Greek words are used:
"When they saw the star, they rejoiced [chairo] exceedingly with great joy [chara]." (Matthew 2:10)
"And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy [chara] and ran to report it to His disciples." (Matthew 28:8)
"Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad [chairo] in that day..." (Luke 6:22-23a)
"But we had to celebrate and rejoice [chairo], for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found." (The prodigal son’s father in Luke 15:32)
"Rejoice [chairo] with those who rejoice [chairo], and weep with those who weep." (Romans 12:15)
"I am overflowing with joy [chara] in all our affliction." (2 Corinthians 7:4)
"You will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice [chairo]; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy [chara]." (John 16:20)
Our problem in understanding happiness lies somewhat in the parts of speech. In other words, we view happiness as an adjective – a temporary feeling. "I’m happy my team won" or "They have a happy marriage." But scripturally, this concept is largely a noun or a verb – something we possess or express, not something we feel. Affliction and
persecution will never feel good, but when we possess or express true happiness, it cannot be taken away, despite the pain. When we choose to demonstrate our joy in any circumstance, it cannot be denied.
The angels could promise true joy, not because the suffering of this life would disappear, but because the blessing of eternal life had appeared. This is the joy expressed in the Hebrew word samach, which the Israelites used to celebrate the old covenant (2 Chronicles 15:15). It is the same word used when King David wrote, "Let all who seek You rejoice and be glad [samach] in You; And let those who love Your salvation say continually, ‘Let God be magnified.’" It is the countenence of a "cheerful look" (NLT) or "bright eyes" (NAS) that "gladden [samach] the heart," according to Proverbs 15:30.
It is the joy of salvation.
Happiness ceases to be a temporary condition when we fully understand the gift of salvation. It becomes a permanent part of our character because God has given it and nothing on earth can take it away. The light of this new life cannot be dimmed by the darkness of our old nature. The purpose of Jesus Christ becomes our purpose. And in that, there is great joy.
"These things I have spoken to you," Jesus said, "so that My joy [chara] may be in you, and that your joy [chara] may be made full." (John 15:11)
This Christmas, as we celebrate the joy of Jesus Christ that came into the world, let us also possess the full happiness He has given us and express it to everyone around us. This year, let us be joy to the world.