Advent Reflection: Choosing Joy

by Dwana Back

“An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.”

–       Luke 2:9-10

 The angel announcing Jesus’ birth promised that this event would bring joy to all mankind. Surely the news of the long-awaited Messiah did bring great happiness and anticipation to the hearts of the Jewish people.

But let’s face it:  the news of Mary’s pregnancy was not such a pleasant surprise, neither for her nor for her young fiancé.  We can only assume that the birthing process in a dirty stable was less than pleasant.  And those who placed their hope in this baby Jesus later saw him tortured and executed by government and religious leaders who saw him as a threat to their power.  Where was the joy in these events? 

The joy in knowing that Jesus came to earth to become one of us arises from the miracle of his resurrection and the belief that he gives us all the hope of eternal life.  But the day to day difficulties of this life, here and now, can easily rob us of our joy if we do not guard it carefully.

Joy is not an emotion.  It is not the same as happiness or euphoria.  In fact, for those who possess real joy it is at times completely separate from actual life circumstances.  Jesus did not feel happy or eager about his fate; the Gospels tell us that he was in such emotional anguish that he sweated drops of blood.  However, he did face his destiny with a spirit of joy; he knew that the outcome was worth the cost.

Joy is illogical and incongruent.  Joy is the cancer patient facing death bravely in spite of her reluctance to leave her loved ones behind.  Joy is found in the fortitude it takes for an Amish community to forgive a cold-blooded killer for invading their community.  Joy is a daisy blooming at the top of a garbage heap.

In 2005 I had the opportunity to travel to Pascagoula, Mississippi in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  Amid the wreckage, someone had spray painted a sign on a piece of plywood and propped it up against the demolished skeleton of their home.  The sign read, “Do not allow Katrina to steal your joy.”

Joy is a choice, based on faith.  Joy is listed in Galatians 5 as one of the fruits of the spirit, second only to love.  It is a gift from above that we are told to cultivate and grow.  Joy may not laugh in the face of adversity, but it at least smiles and nods knowingly.

Will you choose joy this Christmas?  In the midst of the lousy economy, the Black Friday mob mentality, and the commercialization of our Christian holiday, will you choose joy?

Welcome Jesus into your Christmas and into your heart.  Set your mind on that which is eternal and overlook that which is temporary and meaningless.

 “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” 

– Hebrews 12:2

 

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