Lighting The Candle Of Joy
At my church, which is a PCUSA church lights a candle each week of Advent. The third candle is the candle of joy. I would like to share my reflections on joy. My intention is that my words will not only help you celebrate the Advent season better and deeper, but live the season in your heart now and later.
We’ve looked at hope and peace and seen how they go together. I believe that when we have the hope and peace of God that joy is a natural consequence. The bible talks about joy and what it means to have joy, how life transforming it is and why it is important for a believer to be joyous. The bible, also directs us to rejoice. When we light the candle of joy, we are saying no to simple and self-centered pleasure and yes to the joy found in the Kingdom of God. Life can be and should be joyful, even in the midst of pain and darkness we can find a flicker of joy in our hearts and lives. Joy is not about the events of our life, but the attitude and response we bring to life.
I have a hard time with joy, especially when I am concentrating on the things I lack and want. I cannot be joyful when I am worried about getting and having things. There are times, times that surprise me out of my ego trip and I see how truly awesome and wonderful this life is. This world has so much to offer and too often, I miss it. I want to experience more of it. I want to rejoice in God and His love and grace. To do this I know I need to better understand the gospel and live it out in my daily life.
The Holman Bible dictionary says joy is:
The happy state that results from knowing and serving God. A number of Greek and Hebrew words are used in the Bible to convey the ideas of joy and rejoicing. We have the same situation in English with such nearly synonymous words as joy, happiness, pleasure, delight, gladness, merriment, felicity, and enjoyment. The words joy and rejoice are the words used most often to translate the Hebrew and Greek words into English. Joy is found over 150 times in the Bible. If such words as “joyous” and “joyful” are included, the number comes to over 200. The verb rejoice appears well over 200 times.
Joy is the fruit of a right relation with God. It is not something people can create by their own efforts. The Bible distinguishes joy from pleasure.
Henri J.M. Nouwen: “Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.” Joy as a choice is something we must do deliberately each day and extend it to others. Smile at people, greet them, make time for them, take friends to lunch, and show others images of beauty and works of literature. Ralph Waldo Emerson advises us to “scatter joy”, and Mark Twain tells us to “Let your joy be unconfined!” These two great writers are simply saying to not hide our joy under a basket or keep it to ourselves, but to share our joy and guide others to joy. The more you give something like joy, love, or kindness away the more you will have.
If Anne Frank, who suffered so much, can say, “I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains”, than we should be able to say the same and not just say it, but live it too. Listen to Buddhist monk Thich Naht Hanh, “The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.” Joy is found in the present moment. If we are concerned about the past or looking into the future joy is not with us. When we are aware and live in the present than we can have joy.
God’s very being is joyous. Just think of the many moments of joy that have overwhelmed you: gazing on a lover or your children, reading an awesome piece of literature, watching the sunrise or set, a blazing rainbow glow across the sky, listening to a moving piece of music. God sees, hears, and touches all these and so much more constantly. As one reporter once noted, “Towering clouds of gases trillions of miles high, backlit by nuclear fires in newly forming stars, galaxies cart wheeling into collision and sending explosive shock waves boiling through millions of light-years of time and space.” Immeasurably flowers, songs, stories, and more are always before our creator.
God bathes in joy. We in turn should feel joy whenever possible and I find each day that joy is more possible than not even when we are suffering darkness joy is there waiting for us to embrace and share it. May this season and the New Year bring you more joy and may you share that joy with everyone you meet along the way.
We will end with words from the poet William Cowper:
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs,
And works His sovereign will.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.