While the song says “‘Tis the season to be jolly,” it sure seems to be the season for a lot more these days. Networks and media outlets ever putting out more content, so products of the season seems to grow and evolve all the time. But one of the continuities that seems stable as ever—and unfortunately, even more stable than the role of Jesus in the holiday named for Him—is JOY.
The cynical side of me says “JOY” has this staying power largely because it’s such a short word that can easily be shaped into countless products to be sold over and over again; maybe that, too is part of how God works in mysterious ways! JOY is certainly a word deeply embedded in our Bible, so it is very much a God word—remember how “the JOY of the Lord is my strength,” and of course this month’s memory verse: “Always be joyful because you belong to the Lord. I will say it again. Be joyful!” (Philippians 4:4 [NIrV])
Perhaps JOY, then, can be our secret witnessing tool this season. With it being such a powerful word both for the season and for our faith, it can easily become a part of any conversation. It’s a powerful word, yet one that can also seem to be very elusive, especially for people who have lost, or who may have never had any real sense of rootedness, or purpose for anything other than an endless search for “happiness.”
Ages ago, St. Augustine—who started out his life as a rich boy chasing happiness with plenty money to buy it. Eventually he realized and put the words into prayer, “our hearts are restless until they find our rest in You, Lord.” Likewise, centuries later, a brilliant Enlightenment era mathematician named Pascal put it a bit differently to say “inside each of us is a God-shaped hole” that is never satisfied until we fill that hole with our relationship with God. So, that emptiness that many feel, often heightened in this season, is an integral part of the human experience. It is a part of how God made us in His plan to bring us all to Him.
The nugget of wisdom my mom sent me off with when I left home for the Navy, was a short tool for how to remember the source of JOY—put Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself last. That’s how you find JOY! I don’t know how to wrap it up and put on a nice little bow, but consider this little nugget your Christmas present this year, and one you can freely share as much as you would like, without ever having to pay shipping!
Merry Christmas- Rev. Jim