“Joy to the world, the Lord is come …”
Joy. The word is coupled with all things Christmas. The joy of the season. The joy of a newborn King. The joy of decorating a tree. The joy of celebration.
We sing the words. We know the Christmas carol that has been sung around the world for over three hundred years. We’ve sung it in school as children, we’ve sung it door to door as we carol and drink cocoa with our neighbors, we’ve watched the giggly faces of little people we love singing it, and we’ve sung it from the stages and pews of our churches.
And we smile while we sing about this joy … right?
Sometimes you smile, and sometimes you weep because you don’t feel joy. You feel grief. You feel sadness. You feel anger. You feel despair. And for one more month this year, your hope has been deferred and your heart feels utterly sick.
None of that feels “joyful” to you this Christmas season.
This Christmas your kids may be telling you again that they want a “normal” Christmas, they don’t want to split time between their parents. This Christmas you may lay your head down at night wearing the anchor of guilt and worry around your shoulders.
This Christmas you may be spending it alone, knowing that your addiction has driven a wedge between you and your family. This Christmas you may be curling your fingers around a glass of wine rather than the hand of someone you love.
This Christmas you may be spending it with a Hospice nurse. This Christmas may be the last one with the one person who knows you better than anybody else.
This Christmas season you may be fighting tooth and nail for joy. You may be fighting to keep joy alive in your heart, in your home. You may be fighting to find the joy in a holiday that just feels so broken.
That’s the rub. We want to feel joy. Our hearts and minds tell us that’s how joy is experienced, through our feelings. The Hallmark commercials tell us joy is a feeling. The radio sings to us that joy is a feeling. And sappy Christmas movies definitely tell us joy is a feeling.
But is joy a feeling? Is the joy of Christmas a feeling?
If joy is like our other feelings, that makes it situational. Joy is not situational. Joy is positional. Joy is not dependent on our situation. Joy is fully dependent on our position.
Your situation can change. Your situation can be moved by every wind of change that blows through your life.
Your position as a believer, as one who embraces Christmas as the celebration of the birth of Christ, is immovable. Joy is immovable because your position in Christ cannot be taken from you. No person, no situation has the authority to remove your joy.
Joy is constant. Joy is steady. Joy is part of who we are when we belong to the Father. And that joy feels comforting. That joy feels present in every circumstance.
Despite what the world may shout or whisper to us, happiness and joy are not interchangeable. Happiness is external. It lights our faces when our favorite song comes on the radio, when we sink a three-pointer, or when we win a game of chess. Happiness is eating your favorite ice cream with someone you love.
When we confuse joy with happiness, we’re robbed of the truth. The truth is that the joy of Christmas slept in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes. No situation can change that truth.
Joy is a knowing. Joy is holding tight to the knowing that the God of the universe took on flesh and came to earth as a helpless baby to be with us. To be with you. To experience life with you. To love you. And to willingly lay his life down for you.
He is the Joy to the world. And He is not a feeling, He is a fact. And He is the reason for this Christmas season.
Joy was and is and is to come. That Joy is living and active. It is in the person of Jesus. And He will wipe every tear, he will end our crying, our mourning, and our pain. (Revelation 21:4)
Happiness isn’t to the world. Joy absolutely is to the world. Yes and amen!
So, this Christmas, choose to remember His Joy, receive your King, and prepare room in your heart for Him.
Blog written by Shelby Rawson
Shelby is a local writer, ghostwriter, and editor by trade. She avidly supports the mission of The Refuge Center and its pursuit to intentionally care for the mental health of our community.