When the Christmas season is a disappointment

When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy (Matthew 2:10, ESV).

Have you ever noticed how Christmas can sometimes feel disappointing? After all the buildup, after all the weeks of investment and preparation and growing excitement, it’s usually not quite as picturesque and ideal as you’d envisioned it being.

The wise men may have found themselves feeling a little that way.

We don’t actually know a lot about the wise men. We don’t know, for instance, how many there were. We tend to think three, but that’s only because of the three gifts they brought. We don’t know exactly where they came from, except that they came from “the east” (Matthew 2:1) and that they were looking for a king—“he who has been born king of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2). We also don’t know the mode of travel they used in heading toward Jerusalem, or what they wore, how they looked, or how long this journey took them.

But we do know they ended up at a house, most likely just a common bungalow—which wasn’t where you’d expect a king to be living. They also found this “king of the Jews” to be no more than a child, which you’d think would have surprised them because of the majesty of the star that had led them to Him.

Having traveled probably thousands of miles, having put so much of themselves into this major pursuit, it had brought them not to a castle but to a modest little home. Not to a strong, full-grown ruler, but to just a little baby.

Wouldn’t that have been a bit of a letdown? A disappointment?

Instead, they found it cause for rejoicing. “They rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.”

Joy is something inside of you that doesn’t depend on what’s around you. Joy is unrelated to what is happening in your life. Joy is not waiting for all your plans to come together perfectly before it’s able to kick in. You can experience it and possess it no matter what your circumstances have turned out to be.

And when you do—when real joy is in your heart—it can’t help but come out as rejoicing. Rejoicing is the verbal expression of joy. It’s not something you can do if joy is not what you’ve put inside, but if you’ve chosen joy independent of what’s outside, not only are you able to rejoice, but you can do it “exceedingly with great joy.”

So this Christmas, you can be guaranteed not to be disappointed. You can be the one in your home and among your family who leads the way in rejoicing. You may be tired like the wise men were tired. You may end up with a result that doesn’t exactly resemble what you had in mind.

But just as the wise men approached that house with joy, and there discovered the unique privilege of worshiping at the little feet of Baby Jesus—you, too, will be able to take what this Christmas gives you and rejoice your way through every moment, “exceedingly with great joy.”

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This post originally appeared on Dr. James MacDonald’s daily devotional Our Journey and was republished with permission. 

James MacDonald (D. Min. Phoenix Seminary) is the founding senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel, leads the church-planting ministry of Harvest Bible Fellowship, teaches the practical application of God’s Word on the Walk in the Word radio and television programs, and is a gifted author and speaker. You can find out more about James and his ministries at WalkintheWord.org.


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