One of the most iconic Christmas carols, Joy to the World doesn’t mince words. Like Linus in Charlie Brown’s Christmas show, this song knows what Christmas is all about. It’s about the Lord coming, and about our chance to make room for Him in our hearts. It is also the chance for heaven and nature to sing from the same praise book. Joy!
Joy can be hard to find at Christmas. When a loved one is missing from our Christmas gatherings, we remember old times and regret that we cannot share the current fun with the missing one. When we seek to please everyone and find the task overwhelming, it’s hard to feel the joy. When depression rears its head for no apparent reason, joy hides from us.
Happiness, often mistaken for joy, comes easily to some during the holidays. Many people are smiling and offering unusual kindness to strangers, there are
delicious foods and treats to be had everywhere, and gifts begin appearing on doorsteps and under indoor fir trees.
And to be honest, there are times when the happiness is elusive also, especially when my carefully laid plans and expectations for myself go awry.
Do you think of joy as extreme happiness? Or something deeper? Or something else entirely?
I think joy is sorrow turned inside out.
I believe Jesus understood joy when he talked about it in John 16:20. “Your sorrow will become joy.” The sorrow he was talking about was the grief they would feel when he had died. He said the world would rejoice. There would be a stark contrast of feelings when Jesus was taken from them. Some would be glad, but they would be mourning.
It was this sorrow, he said, that would become joy. There would not be a replacement of the sorrow. There would be no whitewashing of the sorrow with a smile or outward happiness. But the sorrow itself would become joy. The disciples would have a miracle worked in their hearts. The pain would turn to joy. It is not the absence of sorrow that makes for joy, but the transformation of it.
So can we expect that same miracle today? This Christmas? Can the sorrow of grief, of unmet expectations, of exclusion, poverty, or depression be turned to joy? Can the coming of Christ at Christmas
be the trigger?
I think yes, we can expect it, we can find it, and it will be God’s gift to us, yet again. The miracle of Christmas is God with us.
Joy to the world and to you, my friend.