It’s that time of year again, when suddenly the word “joy” becomes part of everyday language. After the 26th it will basically return to its 11-month hibernation for most people, but for Christians, it should not.
One of the impacts of having a word that cycles through cultural seasons, is that it’s easy for its true meaning to be missed. Like ‘resolution’ at New Year’s, and “Giving Thanks” just a while ago, the ideas that are associated with “joy” around Christmas by most of our society are not helpful.
For most people:
joy = happiness
Which is really too bad.
The Biblical idea of Joy is similar to the concept of contentment.
Whereas happiness is dependant on circumstances, contentment and joy are not.
You can have joy in the midst of pain, the same as contentment.
You can have joy when things look bleak, just like contentment.
Joy, like contentment, is so much bigger, so much more powerful, so much more impactful than mere happiness.
Emotions like happiness are fleeting.
They are our responses to things that happen to us.
When something infuriating happens to us, we get angry.
When something disappointing happens, we get sad.
When something good happens to us we become happy.
But Joy – true joy – does not come and go like a mere emotional response.
Joy is similar to happiness in some ways – but so different.
We can have joy in the midst of pain. We can have joy during sorrow. We can have joy despite sadness.
But only when we have Joy that originates outside of ourselves.
Our happiness is what comes out from inside us, when something happens.
Joy is something that we are given. It’s not something we need to try harder to have, but something we merely accept.
Sit for a minute and think about all the ‘problems’ present that first Christmas. An unwed teenage girl giving birth in a town far from her family without a proper place to stay – for starters.
Maybe read the story from the Gospel of Luke in a paraphrase, so it hits you differently. (like The Message)
Yet there was Joy. Joy to the world, for the Lord has finally come. Come to save all people. So even though all problems didn’t dissapear that night, the final solution to them did come.
Knowing that is what brings true, lasting, JOY.
God with us,
You came so that our Joy may be complete,
So that we may know true Joy.
You didn’t take away all the pain of this world,
you didn’t make all sin and sickness disappear.
yet you offered us joy.
Help us to believe thathelp us to receive that
Give us strength to live in that Joy
Give us courage to share it with others.