UNITED STATES - Circa 1950s:  Boy & Girl Smiling At The Platter With A Roast Turkey On It At The Dining Room Table The Boy Is Wearing A Shirt Tie & Check Jacket The Girl A Jumper Set.  (Photo by H. Armstrong Roberts/Retrofile/Getty Images)

It’s been a long, long time coming. But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will.” – Sam Cooke

So true isn’t it?

We are either coming out of change, in the middle of it, or about ready to enter into it.

Change is life. Life is change. It’s not a question of IF, but WHEN.

Big changes. Small changes. Medium-sized changes. Good changes. Bad changes. Some changes are disguised as bad but end up being good. And vice versa.

At the drop of a hat, life can change whether we’re ready or not.

Even when we plan change, it can still catch us off guard. It can still be hard.

This season of Advent reminds us we can’t place our trust in circumstances. Jobs change. People change. Styles change. Opinions change.

And while we may not have control of our circumstances, we do have control of our perspectives.

You see, there are two kinds of people in this world: Happy people and Joyful people.

Happy people are up and down depending on what happens to them. They prop up their hope against material circumstances that only promise one thing: to change. Happy people react to life.

Joyful people are steady and stable because they aren’t enslaved to circumstances. They see interruptions not as problems but as opportunities to learn and grow and be thankful. Joyful people respond to life.

Joyful people understand that whatever happens to them is because God planned it. It’s for their own good and His glory. They choose an attitude of gratitude that rises above the negative emotions of the situation.

But while joy is a choice, it’s not necessarily something we conjure up or create with our own ability.

As the Advent of Jesus’ birth draws near, we are reminded of the source of great Joy.

In Luke 2:9-11, an angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds and “they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”

Can you imagine? The shepherds must have been scared out of their minds. Their comfortable and peaceful and predictable and routine circumstances were rudely interrupted by the brightest light they had ever seen.

It felt like bad news. Smelled like bad news. Looked like bad news. But was it?

You see, when our wall of security and safety and stability we have worked so hard to build is threatened, we get scared. We get nervous. We react to it and jump to conclusions and quickly assume the change must be bad.

But the angel quickly assured the shepherds there was something so much deeper going on than just a bright, annoying light. What seemed like bad news was actually good news.

The good news was that they didn’t have to live life anymore riding the exhausting emotional roller coaster of circumstantial happiness.

The good news is there’s a God who is bigger and more powerful than our fears, doubts, and insecurities. An unchanging God who stepped boldly into our ever-changing circumstances. And He didn’t react out of anger or bitterness or pride. Rather, He responded out of pure love and compassion and grace.

When He saw our sin, He didn’t turn His head or hold His nose or walk away in disgust and let us suffer out of spite.

You see, He isn’t a “happy” God who is up and down based on our obedience. Instead, He is a “joyful” God who is strong and steady and constant in His love for us.

And when God sees us, He sees the image of His Son who was born a perfect birth, lived a perfect life, and who died a perfect death.

Now that’s Good News! Don’t know about you, but I want some of His joy to rub off on me. I want to run as fast as I can everyday to that manger and worship Jesus.

So when circumstances change, may we not react in fear, but may we respond in faith and choose joy over happiness.

And may we be on the lookout for great joy and find it wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.

Even when things are stripped away and we get scared, may we trust the One who was stripped of everything and who wasn’t too scared to die on a Cross.

Yes, it’s been a long, long time coming. But I know a Savior is gonna come, oh yes He will.

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