I bring you good news of great joy…(Luke 2:10).
Due to circumstances beyond my control I have been negligent in keeping on top of these brief ponderings. Consequently, Advent is getting away from me without sharing some thoughts with you on the major themes of this season of preparation leading to our celebration of Jesus’ birthday.
Tomorrow marks the third Sunday of Advent. The theme of this coming week is joy. Today’s text is a reminder that right from the beginning the birth of Jesus was hailed as news that would bring joy to all humanity. But what exactly is joy?
Joy is a little different from happiness. Happiness is an emotional response to our external circumstances. If you open a gift on Christmas morning that is just what you were hoping for, you will be happy. But joy is an experience that can be present in our lives even if there are no goodies under the tree and things are difficult. It is a deeper reality that flows from an experience at the core of our being that the Bible calls the spirit. It is also a reality that is produced in our spirit by the Holy Spirit. Joy is a Spirit thing.
Joy can be accompanied by happiness. But joy can also be present when we are sad, or even depressed. Being in a relationship with God does not guarantee that our circumstances will be without trouble. Jesus actually promised that in this world we would have trouble! But if we are living in a dynamic relationship with God, the Holy Spirit can give us joy regardless of what is happening around us. It's a little hard to explain. You almost have to experience it to know what I’m talking about.
One last thought. Do you know who was the most joyful person that ever lived? The Bible prophesied that when the Messiah came he would be “anointed with the oil of joy above all his companions,” (Ps. 45:7). Jesus was joyful. My hunch is that this quality was part of why people were so attracted to him.
So I wish you joy today and throughout this Advent season. I hope you get that little verse from the Christmas hymn stuck in your mind: “Joy to the World…the Lord has come!” Amen.