Dec 15 2013

Where’s the Joy?

Elkmont 184It’s the third Sunday of Advent and today’s theme is joy.   The theme of joy is so special in the Advent calendar that the candle that is lit on this day is not purple like the others but pink.  Joy is certainly a central part of the Christmas story. It was, after all, a song of joy that permeated the skies above Bethlehem on the night of Jesus’ birth.  The angels announced that evening “good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” (Luke 2:10)  Two thousand years later I can’t imagine going through the season without singing “Joy to the World!”

prairie-dogs-172Still, as I mentioned last week regarding peace, there are times when I cannot help but wonder where that joy is that the angels spoke of and we sing about each year.  Exactly how much joy do you see around you?  How much joy do you find within you?  I believe people want to live joyful lives but this doesn’t seem to be all that common these days.  Why?

BSF-Yahoo-Falls-Years ago I heard someone say that the letters of the word “joy” can help us discover the secret of experiencing joy.  He said the key to joy is putting Jesus first, Others second and Yourself third.  I think there is some truth to this.  When we live our lives selfishly, putting ourselves before Christ and others, it does not lead to happiness or joy.  True joy comes when we live humbly and with proper perspective.  That perspective includes the recognition of the supremacy of Christ and the importance of others.  Unfortunately, you rarely hear this taught.  All forms of media seem to emphasize the importance of putting yourself first.  The fact that so many people have bought into this lie helps explain the absence of joy in a lot of people’s lives.

It is my own experience that I am, indeed, most joyful when I am living the life God has called me to live and serving others.  My joy diminishes in relationship to how much I exert my own will over that of God’s and my own interests over that of others.  Even though I know this to be true, it does not mean that I always live as I should or put others before me.  I fail often and when I do I invariably feel the absence of joy.

Buttermilk-Mountains-flowersI do, in fact, find my greatest joy in my relationship with God and in serving others but I will also acknowledge, as I did last week pertaining to peace, that I find a great deal of joy in God’s Creation.  Time in nature is one of the almost fail-proof sources of joy in my life.   Whether it’s looking at wildflowers, watching wildlife, observing beautiful vistas or contemplating waterfalls I always experience delight and joy in the natural world.  I have a feeling I’m not the only one who has this same experience.  I say that because I sincerely believe that God’s Creation is meant to be a source of joy for each of us.  The sad thing is a lot of people don’t realize this and for that reason miss out on one of God’s greatest gifts to us.

When I raised the question last week, “Where’s the peace?” I answered that for me it’s found primarily in my relationship with God and His Creation.  Today, as I raise the question, Where’s the joy?” I must give the same answer.  So once again I offer thanks for Christ and the world he created,  and also for the joy I find in each.  If you feel the same, I encourage you to give thanks too.

–Chuck

(I took the first image in the Great Smoky Mountains, the second in Wyoming, the third in Kentucky’s Daniel Boone National Forest, and the fourth one near Bishop, California.)