“If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” John 15:10–11

Joy is a common feature in most of the narratives of the Savior’s nativity. Luke 1:44 records that John the Immerser leapt within his mother’s womb when Mary came into her presence. Luke 1:58 states that at the birth of John, the neighbors and relatives rejoiced and his father, Zacharias, joyfully prophesied concerning the role that John would play in preparing the way for the Savior (Luke 1:67–79). The angels declared their tidings of great joy to the shepherds in Luke 2:10ff and the shepherds expressed their joy by glorifying and praising God as they returned from having seen the Savior the night of His birth. Simeon and Anna poured out their joyful hearts in praise at the sight of infant Jesus in Luke 2:25–38. Lastly, at the end of the events associated with the Savior’s birth, we read of the search of the wise men from the East as they traveled toward Judea. After meeting with Herod and being sent toward Bethlehem to find the One born King of the Jews, they had “exceeding great joy” when they saw the star that led them to the house where Joseph, Mary, and the young Child lived (Matthew 2:10).

The one common denominator in every instance of joy in these Nativity stories is a deep, distinct understanding of the significance of the events. The long awaited Savior was finally in our midst and was finally about to go work His Father’s plan fulfilling the promises long held dear by the faithful throughout the ages. There was real cause for all that widespread joy.

With all the joy at His birth, it is easy to lose sight of the heavy cost of His mission. He came to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). The question has to be asked, was the joy all ours and the sorrow all His? Isaiah 53:2–5 explains the burden He alone could, and would, bear: “He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief…Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgression, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him.” Certainly, the burden of our redemption was all His, but did He have no joy in His life among men?

A full understanding of what it meant for the sinless Son of God to take on the sins of man is impossible. But we can glimpse the depth of His condescension. The mysteries surrounding His incarnation is a case in point. Consider this: we all can grasp the salient point that the Son of God humbled Himself and took upon Himself a human body ultimately prepared for the ignominious death on the cross (Philippians 2: 5–8). But the complete meaning of the moment of His incarnation is full of mystery and is astounding for modern man to contemplate.

Every aging human constantly fears the humbling gradual loss of independence, and battles bitterness along the way. Loss of health, driving privileges, possessions, independent living, and the dwindling number of peers are all sources of discontent. Our state becomes a constant source of complaint as our sorrows mount up. If we are born again and still have our faculties about us, we find a growing longing for heaven in order to escape from our plight.

Now think of the humbling of our Savior. Jesus Christ is fully God. To be incarnated He needed to voluntarily set aside the independent use of His divine attributes and take on flesh, becoming fully human as well. Did you stop to think about the moment that became reality? Surmising from what we know about human life, that moment was the moment of conception, when the body that God prepared for Him was only one cell (Hebrews 10:5). To self-empty all His majestic attributes He entered the state of vulnerability that we all have to endure as preborn infants. To also voluntarily enter a state of knowing absolutely nothing, acquire the ability to do absolutely nothing, and to start from scratch in acquiring knowledge, is a simply fantastic thing that only our Sovereign would do. Since mankind universally seeks to avoid, at all costs, giving up independence, it is certain that Jesus Christ is not like us. We are fallen, sinful, selfish human beings.

His humbling was such that, due to His acquired sinless human nature through the virgin birth, He had to learn just like us, and yet not like us in that His only desire and joy was to fulfill His Father’s will from the very beginning (Luke 2:40–52). His joy is no different in heaven than it was in the days of His first advent. To really know true, lasting joy, one must know the reality and heavy burdens of tragedy and sacrifice. But simple happiness, anywhere it may be found, will be recognized and celebrated. His greatest joy was found in simple obedience to His Father. This constant source of joy was what He desired to give to every saint in John 15.

The joy of the Christmas season and throughout the rest of your pilgrimage on this earth as you age is to be found in simple obedience to the Father, just as your Lord! Trust and obey.