Monday, December 29, 2014

Happiness Fades, but Joy Lasts Forever

How are you feeling?  On any given day when I am out in the presence of friends and family, I get asked that question quite a bit.  It's not something that bothers me because I know people genuinely want to know how I'm doing.  Some are hoping for a better response than "I'm doing ok,".  Others want to delve into things a little more and get specifics.  Either way it is done out of love.

So now it's my turn to ask you -- How are you feeling?  Has the merriment of Christmas worn off already and you are facing the daily life you always face?  Or are you still basking in the glow of that near perfect Christmas you had with your family and friends.  Are you still happy, of has the happiness worn off already.

I will be honest.  This wasn't one of my happiest Christmases.  It had nothing to do with the company that came around, the gifts I received or the little bit of food I was able to eat.  If you just looked from the outside at those things, it should have been one of my happiest Christmases ever.  I celebrated with my dad for the first time in a very long time.  The gifts I received from my family were perfect.  We received countless gifts from people that we weren't expecting.  Yet, the happiness just wasn't there because of what is looming in the near future.  It constantly hung over my head that this could be my last Christmas with my family.  I wasn't depressed because of it.  I wasn't really sad, either.  I just wasn't happy.

You might be wondering how I couldn't be sad if I wasn't happy.  That's because there is another feeling that trumps them all -- JOY. It is explained best here by author Sarah Habben in a portion of an Advent by Candlelight service she wrote.

Are you beginning to understand that joy is not the same as happiness?  Happiness is circumstantial and fleeting.  Happiness is finding a free parking spot at the mall 2 days before Christmas.  Happiness is unwrapping a hoped-for present.  Happiness is pulling a perfect pie out of the oven.  But happiness doesn't last.  Try to enjoy backing out of that parking spot when 10 cars are lined up behind you, honking. the present you so desired will soon collect dust.  That perfect pie will be eaten.  Happiness is a feeling that does not last.  Happy doesn't help you when you are broken on the inside.

True joy is not a feeling.  It is a posture of the heart.  The root word for joy in the Greek is chara, which is closely related with the Greek charis for "grace".  Grace is God's gift of undeserved love.  Do we see God's grace in Bethlehem?  Certainly we do: God sent his only Son to a world of sinners.  That's love! ... Because of that gift, all who believe in Jesus as their Savior also have the certain hope of God's favour and a heavenly home.  That gift of love is what creates true joy; divine joy.  Divine joy make our hearts stand tall even when they are pummeled by earthly sorrows.  

Remember what the angels said in Luke 2?  "Don not be afraid.  I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you;  he is Christ the Lord."

"Today a Savior has been born to you:  he is Christ the Lord!".  If you are looking for Christmas joy, you can find all you need in this single verse. 

I might not have been happy this Christmas, but instead I was filled with JOY.  Joy came from having my dad with me.  Joy came from the countless blessings we received.  Joy came because I was once again reminded of the amazing grace that God showed us by sending His son as a baby to die for us.  I like it is said above, JOY is not fleeting.  It is something that lasts.  The JOY that I felt this Christmas is not something I will loose, ever, because God's grace will never end.

I was thinking about one of my favorite Christmas hymns, "Joy to the World".  What if that first line was changed to "Happy is the world, the Lord is come,"?  That would change the entire meaning of the hymn.  There would be no certainty, no hope, no grace, no unending love if this birth only made us happy.  Instead it fills us with JOY that will last forever.

So how are you feeling?  May you be filled with the JOY that only God can give because of His grace, His mercy and His love.

** Special thanks to my sister-in-law, Michelle Vogel, for sharing the piece by Sarah Habben.

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