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CHRISTMAS MESSAGE: A season of joy


CHRISTMAS MESSAGE: A season of joy

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The following is the Christmas message from Diocesan Administrator of the Anglican Church, Canon Wayne E. Isaacs.

The celebration of the birth of Christ is of special significance to the Christian Community. It is a time when we thank God for sending his Son to be the Saviour of the world. His name is Emmanuel, “God with us”.

Christmas is a Season of Joy.

What is the nature of Christian joy? Christian joy is not dependent on circumstances or emotions. Christian joy is grounded in our relationship with Jesus Christ; it is a gift from the Holy Spirit. Basically, it teaches and makes the salient point that all is well in spite of circumstances and prevailing adversity. We can be unhappy with circumstances in our lives and yet be joyful. Christian joy is a spiritual experience; it is not linked to human activity: “For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). Christian joy is constant; it does not change with time.

There is a difference between Christian joy and the common understanding of joy. The common understanding of joy is linked to circumstances, emotions and worldly possessions. Given the fact that circumstances do change, the common understanding of joy can be a transient experience that does not last for a long time; it can be fleeting and short lived. In many instances this joy can lead to disappointment because what it promises is very often not fulfilled.  Christian joy is a lasting experience which is not subject to earthly time or incidents. Jesus reassures us that those who are in fellowship with him will always have his abiding presence which guarantees a joyful life. “So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:22). Nothing can rob us of our joy in Christ.

Paul asks us to “rejoice in the Lord always”. The joy that Paul encourages us to have fills our lives with peace, patience, perseverance, contentment, calmness, endurance and confidence. We might want to call it the peace of God that passes all human understanding. This way of living – Christian joy – can only be achieved when we are in a loving relationship with Jesus Christ.  

God’s joy strengthens us in our moments of weakness. It makes us strong and enables us to fight courageously the many “wars” we encounter in our daily living. “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

The opposites of Christian joy are hopelessness, despair and misery, which can have a negative impact on our lives. Where this joy is absent our lives are characterised by anger, bitterness, discontentment, bad human relationships, quarrelling and complaining spirits.

We must not assume that Christian joy protects and shields us from suffering. We will have various forms of suffering in our lives; life is never a bed of roses. However, because of our joy in Christ we are able to cope with our trials without losing hope, sinking into despair or living in a state of constant anxiety. Suffering and death are never the final words in our lives, for in Christ Jesus there is always resurrection.

Paul’s advice to “rejoice in the Lord always” is apt for our times. What does it mean? It means to be aware of God’s presence in our lives at all times and to have confidence in the goodness of God in all circumstances. Isaiah captures this thought: “When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour” (Isaiah 43:2-3).

Joy is a gift from God which cannot be bought or earned. It is God’s peace dwelling in our hearts, which makes us peaceful and loving. The joy that comes from God strengthens us in our weakness, gives light when life becomes dark, replaces despair with hope and death with life.

As our nation goes through its present economic, social and political challenges, we must live within the context of the Christmas joy which gives us hope. Without this joy it is possible that our lives can be overtaken by despair and disillusionment which can rob us of the energy we need to solve the complex issues we face as a nation.

On behalf of the Diocese of Barbados I extend Christmas greetings to the Government and people of Barbados and pray that the joy and hope of the Christian Season will remain with us at all times as we work to build a better Barbados.