I love this time of year. My mom’s Hummel Nativity scene greets you when you walk in the door. The house is lit up with lights, candles glow in the evenings, and the fireplace warms the house as we enjoy the beauty of the tree. All this brings such joy.

But not everyone is feeling joy. For many, it is not the most wonderful time of the year. Maybe you have difficult family issues, an impending divorce, addiction, mental illness or are grieving the loss of a loved one. Instead of joy, you are filled with stress, anxiety and even depression.

As I consider that nativity scene that greets me at the front door, I imagine the biblical Elizabeth had moments of disappointment and even heartache. Rather than joy, she lived with the disappointment of not bearing a child. Just think how those years of infertility must have worn on her. She was married to the Priest, Zechariah, who was described as righteous and blameless. She came from a rich spiritual linage as the daughter of Aaron from the house of Levi. Yet, God did not bless Elizabeth with a child for years. As the years moved on, Elizabeth passed the child-bearing stage and probably resigned herself to the disappointment of being childless in a culture that values women for their child-bearing role. Imagine what she had to endure-the whispers behind her back, feeling like an outsider and more.

However, in Luke 1, Elizabeth’s life changed. Zechariah was told by the angel, Gabriel, that his wife Elizabeth would have a child. This proclamation was surprising not only because Elizabeth and Zechariah were infertile, but because they had prayed for so long with no result.

Most of us are can relate to barren places in our lives. We have experienced disappointment in a job, relationship, dream or health. Whether that disappointment is over a physical infertility or some other type of barren place, disappointment can easily settle in. We can give up on our dreams and feel that time has passed us by. Yet, in the biblical account of Elizabeth and Zechariah, against all odds, Elizabeth conceived and her desire was granted. As we pick apart this passage, several points are made:

  1. Disappointment happens to good people. Elizabeth and her husband were “good people.” The human side of us wonders, “I am doing everything right, why can’t I be blessed in the ways I see others blessed?” What appears to be unanswered prayer in Elizabeth’s story is not a judgment on her as a person. She was not in sin or unfaithful to God.
  2. Don’t believe that just because you are getting older, life is passing you by and your dreams won’t be fulfilled. Our later years can be times of great fulfillment. We don’t always understand the timing of God, but His timing is always best. And we don’t always know what God is protecting us from when we think things should happen according to our time table. Also, just because our culture favors the young, God does not. Mary, the mother of Jesus was young and Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist was old. Yet, both were a part of God’s plan of redemption.
  3. Like Zechariah, we must continue to pray and contend for the goodness of God. In Luke 1: 13, the angel tells Zechariah, “Your prayer has been heard.” Never doubt: God hears our prayers. Don’t stop or give in to depression or disappointment. Don’t abandon hope even in the face of what seems impossible. God sees and notices us even when we don’t feel it.
  4. Miracles happen. John’s birth was a miracle. The joy of that baby must have been incredible. Patience paid off. The couple remained faithful to God’s calling no matter what. Their unwavering faith must have been such a witness to others.
  5. Great joy comes from God. Joy is not found in circumstances or things. Yes, we see glimpses of joy through a sunset or the birth of a baby. But joy comes from the person of Jesus Christ. It is a joy unspeakable and full of glory according to Scripture. Who doesn’t want that type of joy?

So, if you are feeing barren this Christmas or living with disappointment, one message of the Christmas story is that God wants to do something miraculous in your life. He delights in showing you great favor. He wants to bring you great joy.

No matter what we face this holiday season, Jesus is our hope. Our hope for a better day, for new life, and for reuniting with loved ones. We know a day is coming when there will be no more tears or disease. He is our joy! Joy to the world. Our Lord has come!

Putting the joy back in Christmas