I hated 2020.
I planned on sharing a list of its infamous moments but deleted it. Too depressing. No one wants to read a grouchy Christmas devotional.
Except maybe the Grinch, but even he came around. We read Christmas devotionals to connect with God, be encouraged and, for a moment, feel hope.
But that hope can fade into the darkness of this season. As we approach the first (and hopefully only) "Pandemic Christmas" of our lifetimes, joy can seem elusive.
The Surprising Key to Joy
I've always struggled with the mottos on Christmas cards encouraging us to "be joyful" or "take joy."
I want to print a Christmas card that says, “Joy is complicated." I'm sure it will be a huge seller.
For me, especially in today's dark season, joy has an ironic pre-requisite:
Joy requires brutal honesty with God.
Unexpressed anger, disappointment or bitterness toward God prevents true joy. Notice I said, "unexpressed" and not "unresolved." We likely won't find resolution when our pain is fresh. Silent compliance, in the midst of pain, is the true joy killer. If you don't believe me read the Psalms - two-thirds of them are disappointed laments (some are more like rants). Why don't we pray like that anymore?
Get the truth out in the open.
What hurt you in 2020? Name It. Give God an earful. Yell at him. Beat God up for not intervening, not seeming to care, not changing things or allowing the misery.
Anger toward God is not toxic. But silence is.
Unexpressed conflict makes any relationship phony. Don’t allow your relationship with Jesus to be a fraud. There is no joy in false harmony.
Jesus and Honesty
I talk (write) a big game, but it’s hard to take my own advice. I’m afraid God will push the mute button and instead listen to the people who “pray safely.” Telling God He’s blown it in 2020 will result in trouble, right?
But, I'm amazed by the honesty of Jesus’s followers:
Peter – You’re doing this all wrong, Jesus. (Matthew 16)
James and John – We're after glory for ourselves. (Mark 10)
Thomas – I don’t believe He rose from the dead. (John 20)
Honesty, not silence, led each of these disciples to joy. In fact, Judas is the only one who hid his intentions, doubts and confusion. That did not go well for him.
Christmas means God became a person (John 1) and therefore knows the pain, disappointment and brokenness of life. He’s lived through more than “2020” so your honest prayer will not take Him by surprise.
Make honesty the #1 item on your Christmas list. It’s the surprising and ironic key to true joy – the joy of knowing we have a God who is walking with us through both 2020 and 2021.
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