how to kill your christmas joy in one easy step

This past week I spoke at my old church in Portland, Imago Dei.  I spoke on Luke 1 -- a passage I came to love as I was studying it because there's just so. much. joy. Mary's joyful, Elizabeth is joyful, Zacharias is joyful, and so is their community.

But as I was studying it, I realized that all of the joy the experienced for themselves and for each other could've been killed by one simple thing: jealousy. 

If they had looked at the differences in the parts they played in the Incarnation, and if they had made value judgments about those differences, they would've killed the joy.

Mary could have said, "Why does Elizabeth get to be the married woman, and I'm going to be the single unwed mother?"  or "Why does Elizabeth get to be married to the man in full-time ministry and I have to marry the blue-collar carpenter?"

Elizabeth could have said, "Why does Mary get to carry the Messiah and I just get the forerunner -- a man who's going to eat locusts and wear loin cloths and look like he's been raised by wolves?"  Or, "Why did Mary get to speak directly to the angel and I got to hear about my pregnancy through my husband, who was doing charades because the angel had made him mute?"

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I see jealousy creep up in my life often.  Someone gets to take the vacation I wanted, or has the wedding I've been envisioning for myself, or another author's book goes big, and I cringe inside and think, "That should've been me!"

I'm learning that when I have that response, it shows that I doubt God's goodness towards me.  I doubt that God loves, cares, provides for and knows me.  And I resent the other person instead of celebrating with them.

Now that I've noticed this tendency in myself, I've been actively working on it -- asking God to change my heart and my posture towards God and other people.

Because here's the bottom line.  You and I are not living competing narratives; we are part of the SAME STORY!!!  

We have different parts to play, but it's the same story with the same Director and we all serve at his will and command.  The differences in what God asks/allows you and I should do should be causes for celebration, not comparison, judgment or jealousy.

So.  Want to kill your joy this Advent?

Get jealous.  Get really, really jealous.

Want to find more joy in your life?

Learn to celebrate what God's doing for you -- and for others around you.

Come to believe what Charles Spurgeon said:

"Remember this.  Had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there."