The Nativity, the birth story of Jesus, is a very human story with the hand of God’s providence orchestrating each and every detail to bring Good News of Great Joy to us through the Birth of the Son of God. But is our “ho-hum” response to the Christmas story wrapped up in the fact that we are just not interested in the Angelic proclamation of God’s version of Great Joy for our lives? Preachers have wrongly nuanced the concept of Joy as they’ve told us that God is not interested in our happiness anyway but that he wants to give us Joy, as if Joy was of some other essence than happiness. We should instead think of the relationship of happiness and joy as one of intensity from lesser to greater and not of a relationship of diametric opposition. Maybe it is strange to think that God wants to satisfy our minds, hearts, souls and bodies with the deepest happiness that can be found anywhere in the universe.
Jonathan Edwards, perhaps America’s greatest theologian said of the First Christmas, “Christ’s incarnation was a greater and more wonderful thing than ever had yet come to pass.” This most wonderful thing is about making possible the most meaningful reunion of the rebellious creation with the Creator through the mediator of Christ in order that you and I can experience the love we were designed to have and feel the deepest possible happiness. Still, we would probably rather seek happiness in having God Bless our Plans and Baptize our Pleasures. The consequence of living as as though our deepest happiness can be found in our plans and pleasures is that we have become the most depressed and anxious generation our country has ever seen. When our plans fail we become anxious; when our pleasures betray we get depressed. John Calvin says, “God invites all indiscriminately to salvation through the Gospel, but the ingratitude of the world is the reason why this grace, which is equally offered to all, is enjoyed by few.”