On that first Christmas night God gave the most wonderful gift the world has ever known – His only Son, the Messiah, King Jesus. Along with that Gift, in our Christmas stocking so to speak, He also gave us Love, Joy and Peace.
Not surprisingly, the world has counterfeits for all of the gifts God lavished upon us that night. We have had many false Messiahs. The world’s counterfeit for Love is lust. The substitute for Joy is happiness. And the weak replacement for Peace is security.
As a pastor, I have counseled hundreds of people who were considering marriage. Often it was clear that couples were in lust with each other, when they thought they were in love. Many didn’t even know each other well enough to know if they were in love!
God’s Love is pure, and it is holy. It is what will get couples through the tough times in their marriages (and all marriages have those times). If all a man and a woman have is physical attraction, when stresses come, divorce often follows.
On the other hand, if God is the third partner in their marriage, they have true Love to draw upon. After all, God IS Love. As the “Love Chapter” (I Corinthians 13) says, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” If you allow real Love to invade your marriage, it will not fail.
One of my most favorite songs is “Joy to the World.” A few days ago I led Christmas carols at three prisons, singing a variety of carols at each. But the one I made sure we sang at every one was, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King.”
Like Love, People who have never had a personal encounter with Jesus cannot understand true Joy. This is because Joy comes from the inside, if the Lord lives in a person’s heart. Happiness comes from outside.
I often hear motivation speakers say that you can create your own happiness. In reality, happiness is totally dependent on circumstances. If things are going well, anyone can be happy. If people are nice to us, that makes us happy.
But if circumstances turn ugly, happiness fades away quickly. If people are cruel to us, happiness evaporates. In contrast, God’s Joy springs from within our hearts. Believers don’t need happiness, because Joy is with us regardless of circumstances.
Finally, there is Peace. People talk a lot about peace at Christmas, but I don’t see a lot of it in many of the people I meet. They worry about whether the gifts they give will make the right impression. They stress about being seen at the “right” parties and social occasions.
This is because what they think of as peace is really just security. If they have the right job, the right connections, if they have enough money, if people like them – they are secure. But all these things can be taken away in the twinkling of an eye. Their boss can fire them, the dollar could collapse, their investments could go South, and they could find that their “friends” only liked them because of their money or their position.
Real Peace, like Love and Joy, comes from the inside out. It’s not dependent on money, status, or whether someone likes you. Everything can be going wrong in your life, but if you have God’s peace, those around you will be amazed at your attitude and demeanor.
In Mark the fourth chapter we find a beautiful picture of how God’s Peace works. Jesus and His disciples were in a boat when a furious squall came up. The waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. The disciples were in fear for their lives, but Jesus was peacefully asleep. His followers freaked out. They woke him and said, "Master, don't you care if we drown?" They should have known better, but they were just learning.
Jesus came out on the deck, raised his arm over the waves, and said, “Peace. Be still!” Immediately the waves calmed down (and so did the disciples!).
If Jesus lives inside you, everything around you can be turmoil and darkness – but you can have peace. This is because, unlike security, your Peace is not ruffled by circumstances. And when the time is right, Jesus will tell your circumstances, as He did the waves, “Peace. Be still!”
If you don’t have Love, Joy and Peace, remember they come as part of package deal. When we were caroling at the prisons, Chaplain Dick Witherow quoted a bumper sticker: “Know God, know Peace. No God, no Peace.” The same is true for Love and Joy.
The “coupon” that you can use for this package deal is found in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, so that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but will have eternal life.” Wow! Along with eternal life, you get Love, Joy and Peace.
That’s the best deal you’re going to find anywhere this Christmas.