“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
It’s Christmas Day, and it’s stunning to think that the incarnation really happened. The Father sent the Son and “made us alive together with Him” “because of His great love with which He loves us,“ ”so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:4-7).
When our culture hears the word “holiness,” it imagines dour-looking people sitting primly in dark rooms. If there’s a Christian depicted in popular culture, he’s sure to be dull and grim. But God has always been a God of joy, and He intends for us to be joyful as we reflect on Him and His holiness.
Consider Nehemiah 8:9-12, when the Jewish exiles return from Babylon. The priests read to them from the law of God, and the people begin to weep. Nehemiah tells them that this time of restoring their covenant with God isn’t a time for weeping because it is holy:
“This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep...Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.” All the people went away to eat, to drink, to send portions and to celebrate a great festival, because they understood the words which had been made known to them.
This is a God of life, and joy, and grace. This is the God who sent His Son to take on flesh and die for us to bring us a life of joy. This is the God for whom countless people throughout the centuries have given up everything - because He is better than all things. People who, as Paul said, “count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:8).
We serve a God who is never tired, never broke, and never in need. He is the good Father who has unlimited resources to help those He loves and He loves us! There is no end to His abundance. We are not saved to give up things for the sake of the pain. We are saved from material pleasures to wade deeper into His great grace and joy. The more of that joy we experience, the more is accessible to us. The fasts and disciplines of the Church are for our good, for our joy. When we complain about restraints, we are like children who cannot enjoy the ride at Disneyland for fear of the lap bar. Nothing is done to us that will cost us a single real pleasure. Instead, every order, every move, on the part of God is a further invitation to a deeper plunge into his great goodness and grace. It is almost unfair that we get to be Christians. All of Jesus and joy evermore.