Wednesday, December 14, 2011

On this past Sunday, we lit the third Advent candle – the candle of Joy. To be honest, I think joy is an over-talked-about attribute. Or maybe I just mean that it’s poorly discussed. I realize that the common Christian thing is to say that true joy is not equated with being happy. I looked it up though, and you know what the dictionary says about joy?

1 a: the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires: delight b: the expression or exhibition of such emotion : gaiety

2: a state of happiness or felicity : bliss

3: a source or cause of delight

That sounds an awful lot like being happy to me. I think that sometimes we take joy and make it something less. Maybe joy does mean being happy. Maybe joy means that you can choose to be happy for keeps.

A lot of things that make us happy fade…a good cup of freshly roasted, fair trade Chiapas coffee makes me exceedingly happy, but eventually that cup is gone. My really nice pair of leather riding boots with the double buckle at the top makes me feel like all is right in my little world, but I can only wear those boots so often. My freshly cut North Carolina Fraser fir lit with many strands of multi-colored lights makes my heart sing like no other Christmas decoration, but when Christmas is over, we take that tree down.

True joy lasts.

Usually it’s like this: Our circumstances dictate our feelings of happiness.
Joy is like this: Our joy dictates our feelings about our circumstances.

For me, it’s as simple as finding the delightful moments in my day and as complicated as realizing that my entire being is held together with the joy of the Lord.

In the book of Nehemiah, Nehemiah is in charge of rebuilding Jerusalem. The Jews have spent many years in captivity and have only recently returned to their homeland. They hear the law for the first time in the place where they belong, and they begin to grieve. I’m sure they were grieving for all they had lost, for the oppression they had endured, for their own failings and sins against a faithful and righteous God. I’m sure they had good reason to cry, but Nehemiah and the other leaders tell them to stop. Then the real fun starts:

“Nehemiah said, ‘Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’” – Nehemiah 8:10

Celebrate this holiday season. Feast. Share.

Yes, there’s brokenness.
Yes, this world is dark and painful.
Yes, we should feel those things deeply…

But God gave us another emotion as well.
We can have strength through the brokenness.
We can have light in the darkness.
We can choose joy.

Joy is the certainty that whatever leashes your life to less than Love, or whatever has stained your soul with shame or failure has been neutralized by the one power that can free and forgive us all –
the living Christ.
Jack Hayford

What things delight you during Christmastime?
Do you think joy is different than happiness? How so? I’d love to hear some other perspectives.

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