As we officially embark into another holiday season, it is difficult not to be intoxicated by the red cups of Starbucks and the bright glitter of commercialism, thinly veiled as the season’s purpose for existing.
As we build off last month’s theme of becoming a product of our culture, we are often convinced that our happiness is derived by the things we gift and are gifted, that our fulfillment is found in the shiny boxes under the tree. But, if we’re honest, we know that for many, the holidays can be a melancholy and painful season.
Some family and friends are separated by circumstances and geography, and for others, death. New, charming Christmas commercials somehow do not live up to the promise of delivering happiness. Because happiness, I believe, can be fleeting, coming and going as quickly as the seasons.
But joy… joy is something entirely different. It is a deeper, more meaningful and eternal form of happiness, something seemingly unfazed by time, place or circumstance. Mother Theresa said joy was strength. CS Lewis described it as the serious business of Heaven.
But where does this joy come from?
One clue can be found in the most popular Christmas hymn of the last three hundred years, “Joy to the World”.
Inspired by Psalm 98 and written by Isaac Watts in the late 20th Century, the joyous song captures the true spirit of Christmas, how the birth of Jesus Christ radically changed the world. Hearts and history have forever been transformed by the unlikely story of a king’s birth amongst farm animals and announced by the song of shepherds. Let men their songs employ while fields and floods, rocks hills and plains repeat the sounding joy.
Our modern culture prioritizes happiness and comfort, but as the last few years have proved, we have found unhappiness and discomfort in a world redefined by a pandemic. Just as courage has been described as action in the face of fear, joy is the presence of God in the face of suffering. It is a profound mystery that cannot be described but experienced. It is a spirit that cannot be stripped from us by the realities of the world or by our circumstances. Pursuing joy over happiness can bring us to a deeper purpose in life, one that is strengthened by the true meaning of Christmas.
Only in joy can heaven and nature sing. Only in joy will we find true peace and contentment as Jesus came to make his blessings flow. Only through a king’s ruling the world with truth and grace, can lives and cultures be redeemed. Ultimately, the eternal gift of joy this Christmas and forever can be found in the wonders of His loves, the wonders of His love, the wonders… wonders of His love.