Advent, Week 3 (Dec. 17/17)
Joy: Is It Taught or Caught?
The 1st week of Advent [Dec. 3rd], in “Hope and Rose-Coloured Glasses” we considered people’s nostalgia versus the hopelessness that can accompany life’s realties. While hope can be difficult to regain, people (including us) walking in darkness saw Messiah’s Light shine on their lives and walked them (and us) into Hope. The 2nd week of Advent [Dec. 10th] we explored the idea that “Life Requires Many Preparations” and observed that everything we do—from daily tasks to special occasions-- requires planning. We looked at how Mary and Joseph had learned to trust God much earlier in their lives, and they continued to trust Him when their plans for Jesus’ birth suddenly changed because of Caesar Augustus’ mandatory census. This week the spotlight will be on the Joy candle.
But before we decide if Joy is Taught or Caught, we need to define and decide if joy differs from happiness. Actually, there is no consensus on definitions for joy or happiness. For example, these two terms are often used interchangeably. Others believe that joy is an internal sense of well-being that is not influenced by external situations, whereas happiness depends on external circumstances. Whatever our belief about joy, it may be that we identify it when we experience it or see it in others. For example, it is often easy to recognize joy and wonder in babies and young children because their faces light up when they encounter positive new experiences. But how do adults experience joy? And is joy ‘taught’ or ‘caught’? Do children have innate joy or are they ‘taught’ the essence of joy via observing their parents’ expression of it? Parents are their children’s first caregivers, teachers, and role models, which means that joy is both taught and caught, beginning in their homes. Sadly, many children don’t grow up in happy homes, which can limit their ability to learn about, experience, and express joy. However, these children may still be able to see joy modeled in others and to ‘catch’ or experience it.
In the Christmas story (Luke 2), angels appeared to some shepherds in the fields outside Bethlehem with the news everyone was waiting for, “Joy to the world, Messiah is come!” The shepherds were startled and fearful. Then their sense of wonderment began to grow and with great anticipation they hurried to find the newborn King. Finally, when they saw baby Jesus, they were filled with an overflowing joy that they couldn’t keep secret! And as they returned to their responsibilities, they shared the good news with everyone they encountered.
Do you remember the excitement and joy of becoming a new Christian? Did you experience a new appreciation for the meaning of Christmas? Christmas—a time for us to let Jesus’ joy shine through us! And while we are celebrating His birth, let us also be sensitive to those who are hurting. May we offer them hope through the One who brings us good news of comfort and joy. May our prayer be that, “The God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit,” (Romans 15:13, NIV).
Suggested Daily Scripture Readings:
Sunday Luke 2: 8-18
Monday Isaiah 61: 1-7
Tuesday Psalm 95: 1-8
Wednesday Isaiah 12: 1-6
Thursday Psalm 35: 1-10
Friday Isaiah 9: 1-7Saturday John 15: 9-12