Thursday, November 25, 2010

Joy

The Mobile Press Register was quite a bit heavier today than yesterday. Some of the extra bulk can be attributed to a special 26 page section about the history of the Iron Bowl. Most of the additional weight in today’s paper was from a mountain of sales papers heralding that a new season of shopping is waiting just beyond the turkey and thankfulness.

The season of joy begins tonight with the annual convergence of Christmas decorating and Black Friday shopping. But everyone may not be so joyful. For some people the Christmas season is one of their loneliest times of the year. Other people may be struggling with reasons to be thankful today after a year of job losses, and future economic uncertainty renders the prospect of a joyful Christmas bleak. Some people simply don’t like Christmas, but we will leave the Scrooges for Mr. Dickens.

Reasons abound for people not to be happy, but there are few reasons to lack joy. The season of joy is not affected by circumstances when fully understood. Happiness varies based on our present circumstances. If you give a kid ice cream, he will be happy. If you take the ice cream away prematurely, you will inherit an unhappy child. Joy is not dependent upon circumstances. Joy is much deeper than happiness.

In Acts 13, we learn that Paul and Barnabas were run out of Antioch of Pisidia because of the offense of their gospel preaching. Paul and Barnabas were run out of most of the towns were they preached, but the end of Acts 13 says that Paul and Barnabas were “filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” Paul’s circumstances changed almost daily, but his joy was not affected. Paul was shipwrecked, beaten, cold, lonely, stoned (biblically not from narcotics) and left for dead, but he never lost his joy.

Happiness and joy are easy to distinguish.

Happiness
sweet potato pie
playing ball with my great niece
snowflakes
teaching a class
finishing a long run

Joy
the God who seeks me
the God who never lets go

I can lose my happiness, but not my joy. Did someone mention sweet potato pie? I need my energy as I start the season of joy.