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As we move closer to our celebration of the birth of Jesus, we enter the third week of Advent and encounter the theme of joy. Who doesn’t want to be joyful? I mean, it’s the “hap-happiest season of all,” right?

Too often we’re tempted to believe that joy is something out there to be achieved or acquired. We’re tempted to think that joy is elsewhere and we need to go find it. It will come through some purchase, or some experience, or some interaction with another.

That’s not the wisdom of scripture. Think of Paul the apostle. From prison, he writes a letter to a little church in the town of Philippi. Of all his letters, it’s the one that has the most to say about joy. But his situation in prison would not make any of our “Top Ten Most Joyful Experiences” list. No one would call it “hap-happy.”

But Paul lets us in on his secret when, on two different occasions, he urges his friends to “rejoice in the Lord.” It’s a phrase that’s been used a lot, but I wonder if we’ve understood it.

Paul doesn’t suggest being excited about the Lord. He encourages us to rejoice in the Lord. There’s a difference. We find joy and give voice to joy because of our communion with God. The fruit of the Spirit is joy. Joy is a relationship more than it is a pleasant situation.

No one is more joyful than God is. When I am in God, I am in the most joyful relationship imaginable. It is this vision of God as profoundly joyful that sparks joy in my heart. I can then give voice to that joy I’m encountering in God.

A lot of people I talk to mention how stressful the holiday season feels. Many of us can probably resonate with that feeling. Might it help us to remember whose coming we are celebrating? Can we imagine a Jesus who is utterly full of joy coming to us? Jesus smiles with a smile that has roots in the kingdom of heaven. And he smiles that smile at you.

For reflection:

  • When you think about God, is God smiling, joyful, glad you’re close? Or does God feel distant or somehow disappointed?
  • How would it help you to remember that God really is joyful?

Resource: You might also enjoy listening to one of our early podcasts with Jeff Spadafora in which he unpacks his book, The Joy Model.

Resource: You might also appreciate a post from a couple of years ago, “Finding Joy in Situations That Suck.”


Photo by Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash