Brother Lawrence, whose collected conversations and letters are entitled The Practice of the Presence of God, lived in the seventeenth century. He was born Nicholas Herman in French Lorraine, served as a soldier, and then was converted through seeing a tree in winter stripped of its leaves, and reflecting on the fact that within a short time its leaves would be renewed through the love, providence, and power of God. His conversion led him to enter the monastery of the barefooted Carmelites at Paris in 1666.

Nothing so commends the Gospel to the unsaved world as the great joy of Christian fellowship, the fact that something is different there in the company of God’s people. But, also, by contrast, nothing so hinders the Gospel as a lack of joy in the church, which occurs when joyous fellowship is broken, or maimed, or undermined, or destroyed. There is joy in Christian fellowship, and there is joy in the Gospel, too.

It is true that the joy of Christmas is for everybody, but this doesn’t mean that everybody has found it. This is, after all, the joy of Christmas, which means that it is the joy of Christ. And it is, therefore, to be found in Christ and not just anyplace. If joy is unique, because it is based on or grounded in the character of God, then it must be found in God, which is to say it must be found in Jesus.

It is interesting, isn’t it, that the Christmas story contains two extremes. On the one hand, there were the shepherds, the lowest of the low, to whom the angels appeared with the message and who responded joyfully. At the other extreme were the wise men, the most mighty of the mighty, who also responded when God revealed the birth of Christ to them by the appearance of the star. The appearance of the angels to the shepherds and the presence of the shepherds in the stable indicate that there is no one too lowly, too simple, too uneducated, or too disadvantaged to fail to rejoice in the birth of Jesus Christ.

Mary’s joy was certainly great. Later in his ministry, the Lord Jesus Christ would speak of childbirth, and he would say that a woman, though she experiences great pain in childbirth, nevertheless forgets it and rejoices once the child is born. If that is true of nearly any child, as no doubt it is, it was certainly true in the case of the birth of Jesus Christ because this was no mere baby. If he had been, Mary would have been joyful. But this was no mere baby; this was the Savior. This is the one who had been announced to her by the angel, the one miraculously born. And so Mary’s joy certainly exceeded the joy of the others.