Sunday, December 20, 2009

Give Joy?

Being the introvert that I am, I couldn't resist visiting a department store with 10,000 of my closest friends on the Saturday before Christmas. I was intrigued by the marketing greeting posted at the entrance:
Hmmm.... give joy?

I'm cynical enough that I didn't give the store the benefit of the doubt. I've since learned that this store is sponsoring a $1,000 drawing in which $500 is donated to your favorite charity (Give Joy) and $500 is yours to keep (Receive Joy). I still think most visitors to this store will walk away with my first impression: if I purchase items from this store to give to others, I will be giving them joy.

I think many Americans are mature enough to realize that stuff doesn't bring joy, whether in the form of $500 cash, or disguised as the latest fashions. Unfortunately we don't always believe it. Many of my childhood Decembers were spent anticipating the stuff I would receive as Christmas gifts, but the reality was never as fulfilling as what I anticipated.

I was in my teens when I finally realized that the psalmist was right when God inspired him to write, "You will show me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." (Ps 16:11). Time spent waiting on God in prayer or meditation often resulted in a joy much deeper than the giddiness of stuff or thrilling experiences. In God's presence I found fullness of joy.

Can I give that joy to someone else? Strictly speaking, no. Through kindness, generosity, or love I can give to others a lesser degree of joy, but fullness of joy is something only God can give. God's process of revealing himself to people and communing with them is largely a work of his Spirit and his Word, but he has reserved a small role for us: the honor of preaching the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15). Just as the angels brought good tidings of great joy to the shepherds, we too are given the privilege of telling the world that they have a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. In that way we can be a small part of God's campaign to "give joy" of a magnitude that only he can give.

Give joy. What was originally intended as merely a marketing slogan is actually a reminder of our high calling in Christ.


  1. Wonderful post. I don't know about you but most of the time I can barely even remember what I got from the last Christmas season.
    Hope your family has a blessed Christmas.


  2. Good thoughts, Kurt. Thanks for sharing this.

  3. Such a wise and thoughtful post...

    You know, one of my fondest wishes is to have a no-gift Christmas, but my extended family is horrified at the prospect. A couple of years ago my daughter Amelia, actually asked that she receive no gifts, but instead that people spend her gift money on a child from the Angel Tree project. I was so pleased with her, but sadly no one else took her up on the idea.

    I'd really like to rethink the way our family celebrates the holidays... sometimes it seems like the birth of Christ is just an afterthought...