by Danny Bote
As we are full-fledged into the Christmas season, I believe there is no other season that brings so much joy for some and so much emptiness and heartache for others. As a father of three younger children, we are still in the incredible excitement phase with Christmas. The anticipation of Christmas morning is truly great, and I love it as a father (I’m usually the first one up on Christmas morning). I truly am trying to soak up these moments and Christmas mornings as time speeds by and the kids grow up. Why? Because one day we will wake up Christmas morning to our kids being all grown and out of the house with them potentially having their own families and their own family Christmas traditions. That season will also bring me much joy, but there will also be an aspect of sadness and mourning as we no longer have a house of small children anticipating Christmas morning.
As I sit and think about joy and the Christmas season, I wonder, what does the culture define as joy? Merriam Webster dictionary defines joy as “a state of happiness” or “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.” If you dig a little deeper, Webster defines happiness as “feeling pleasure and enjoyment because of your life, situation, etc.” What do we learn from this definition of joy and happiness? That joy is based upon our feelings of pleasure, or our circumstances. If that is true, isn’t that worrisome to you? Because you and I both know how quickly those can and do change.
As I read the Webster definition, the part that struck me the most was “the prospect of possessing what one desires.” This opens the door to answering how you and I can have true joy. Ecclesiastes 3:11 states: “He(God) has put eternity into man’s heart…” You see, God has placed the prospect of possessing eternity into our hearts. We desire to possess eternity and true joy, but we try to fill that desire with things that are only temporary. Every single one of us is taken by this desire. We believe that if we just possess that car, that person, that relationship, that job, that number in our bank account, that child, that spouse, that house… if we just get that(fill-in-the-blank), we will have joy forever! And let’s be honest, when we get that temporal thing it does bring us a momentary feeling of pleasure and enjoyment, but what happens when that feeling or circumstance is gone? Usually, we continue to try and fill that void with the next temporal thing, which leads to more fleeting moments of joy and pleasure. And over and over we go, trying to grasp something that we just can’t seem to get. What a desperate cycle, isn’t it? We have all experienced this personally and continue to see it in our culture today. So, what is the answer to this never-ending cycle?
Galatians 5:22 states: “But the fruit of the Spirit is joy…” Stop, read that again. Did you catch it? Joy comes from having the Holy Spirit! Possessing God himself in our hearts! If we have the Spirit of God, then that means we have the righteousness of Christ! Joy is not based on an emotion, or success, or good fortune, but on the possession of the eternal! If you received the grace and mercy that comes from our Lord Jesus Christ, then you have that which brings true joy, no matter the circumstance! Yes, it’s ok and even healthy to have feelings of joy and happiness or feelings of sadness and mourn, cry, and be upset by circumstances, but through the changing circumstances of life you can have true joy! Why? Because it’s based on filling that eternal void with a righteousness the eternal, unchanging God only provides through His Son Jesus Christ. That which truly satisfies the soul.
No matter how great or how hard the Christmas season may be for you, if you have the righteousness of Christ, you can truly say, or even sing, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come.”
And if you have Christ, you have the Spirit, and the fruit of the Spirit is joy.