Joy to the world! The Lord is come.
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room;
And heav’n and nature sing…
Joy. A word easily thrown around this time of year. Perfect for decorating. Short. Sweet. It can fit in lots of places. As I sit in my living room writing this, I can see three places in my house where the word “joy” is being used as decoration. A word that brings about warm feelings of happy memories, large Christmas bonuses from work, and cheerful songs at church at Christmas services, right?
Joy = lots of happiness.
Maybe. But maybe there’s more.
If joy = happiness, why do so many (myself included) struggle with fully feeling and experiencing joy, especially around this supposed “joyous” holiday?
Where’s the struggle for you?
- Missing loved ones who have passed or who you will not be with for Christmas.
- Crippling financial struggles or loss of/inability to find quality employment.
- Fears about what is happening in the world around us.
- Relationships with family or friends that seem to be beyond repair.
- Devastating health diagnosis.
- Desires and prayers that appear unfulfilled.
The list goes on….and on and on.
None of those things are happy. They are the complete opposite. So how do we, in the midst of all of this (and we admit, almost everyone is experiencing something on this list, or multiple things..) have any space in our hearts to experience joy?
JOY…not happiness, is everywhere in regards to the birth of Jesus.
It’s all over – in song and the Word.
Joy to the World…
Tidings of Comfort and Joy…
Angels we have heard on high, Sweetly singing over the plains, And the mountains in reply, Echoing their joyous strains…
It came upon the midnight clear, That glorious song of old, From angels bending near the earth, With news of joy foretold, “Peace on the earth, good will to men From heaven’s all gracious King.”…
O Come, all ye Faithful, joyful and triumphant…
“When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” Matthew 2:10
“And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11
See – maybe joy actually does not equal happiness. It especially doesn’t in the Bible.
The shepherds certainly had nothing to be happy about with their life circumstances. Bottom of the totem pole jobs. Hanging out with stinky animals. Loneliness. Yet, the angels brought them news of great JOY. For THEM.
The wise men’s lives were literally on. the. line. with Herod. Talk about a terrorist. Yet, when they saw the star – they rejoiced. With EXCEEDING joy. EXCEEDING. That is a LOT of joy in the midst of some really difficult circumstances.
So joy – what is it?
This definition from patheos.com sums it up pretty well: “Joy isn’t like happiness which is based upon happenings or whether things are going well or not. No, joy remains even amidst the suffering. Joy is not happiness. Joy is an emotion that’s acquired by the anticipation, acquisition or even the expectation of something great or wonderful.”
This, my friends, is Advent. The anticipation and expectation of real JOY found through a baby.
A baby who would change the world.
A baby who redeems all that junk, trouble, and stress in our lives.
A baby who would save us all.
May you choose and experience true and exceeding JOY this Christmas season, and all year long.
“Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen