During the Christmas season the word “Joy” is flung about frequently and sometimes lightly. It’s on coffee cups, commercials and stamps. Sitting here praying my way through fourth stage breast cancer this “Joy” seems lacking the substantial stuff with which I long to bolster my joy experience.

I open my Bible to James 1:2-4, and encounter the answer to my musings from a man of God who knows exactly where I am at. He writes “Count it all JOY, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Whoa! Slow down now! This doesn’t seem very Christmasy! Oh but it is! When was the last time you rode a donkey to Bethlehem to pay your taxes, at 9 months pregnant, and found “No Vacancy” signs at every hotel. Then joy in the morning, as labor pains grip your abdomen, your sweet husband tells you he has found a cozy corner in a cow stall in which to sleep, labor and deliver your first child amidst the animal smells, sounds and prickly straw bedding (with no doctor, midwife or even your mother there to assist and encourage you!) Your first guests after the birth of your child come directly out of the field from herding sheep and have no antibacterial gel to clean themselves up. Then to top it all off, before you have even had time to settle down and look into preschool options, you must jump back up on that donkey and flee with your family to Egypt because the king wants to kill your baby! Forget postpartum depression or knitting bigger booties, you are breast feeding amidst the dust from hoof beats, nibbling on dry figs and raisin cakes and realizing that you may never see your family or friends ever again. This is not the sterile, dirt free environment of the nativity scene on your mantel.

Our lives are not sterile or dirt free. Having cancer, losing a job, struggling as a single parent, dealing with a less than perfect spouse or child is NOT a “happy, happy, joy, joy” experience. Is it? Uh oh, here comes James again… "Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” James 1:12. What a great reminder that we are loved with a perfect love, blessed by a perfect God and saved by a perfect savior. This gift of JOY came out of a less than perfect birthing experience, the suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ and His painful experience on the cross.

No, JOY is not a sparkly word on a Christmas card! And life is not easy, circumstances not always ideal and sometimes truly painful. Yet we have this promise to truly fulfill our Joy experience. “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great JOY that will be for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11.

Have a blessed Christmas and know that as the Psalmist cried out to our loving God we may too. His promise of JOY is there for us at all times. “When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ your love, O Lord supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought JOY to my soul.” Psalm 95:18-19.

Joy to your soul! Pam