Reflection: If we asked several people what they want most in life, I imagine a large percentage would say “to be happy,” but very few would say, “to have a heart full of joy.” I also imagine that the majority of them would assume that happiness and joy are one in the same. But there are major differences between being “Happy, Happy, Happy,” and having “joy, joy, joy, joy down in the depths of our hearts.” Most people will admit that they've been happy at some point in their lives. Happiness is external and is based on circumstances or things that make one feel good momentarily. It is superficial and temporary, teasing us with a sense of fulfillment from the attention or praise of another person, or of accomplishment from achieving a goal or a coveted item. Happiness exists for the present, but if heartache, pain or loss arrives, happiness is “outta here!” Joy, on the other hand, is internal, deep-seated and abiding. Joy remains when the darkness of pain, loss, illness or fear envelops our world, quietly reminding us of who we are and “Whose” we are. Joy knows that in the future, all things will be made right. Why, then, don’t people say they want joy?
Joy in the truest sense is only possible if one knows Jesus, the Source of all joy. Elizabeth knew joy when she received the news of her baby, although she was old., She surely must have felt some fear in the delivery and rearing of such a child. Mary joyfully accepted the news of her coming baby, although she would face ostracism and shame from others. The focal point for both women was Jesus, and He was the source of their joy, even before His birth. John’s “leap for joy” inside of Elizabeth at the sound of Mary’s greeting was no doubt a miracle, but it is one that explains the only way we can have true joy…by hearing Jesus’ call and inviting Him to come live and abide in us. He promises to abide in us forever, therefore our joy will be complete.
Prayer: "Father, You are the God of Creation and the sustainer of the universe. At the same time, you are lovingly involved in each and every detail of our lives. This past year has been a difficult one. I sat by my mother’s bedside as she took her last breath. That same evening, I sat by my husband in the hospital as he battled a severe infection. A month later, I was given news of residual cancer cells that resulted in two surgeries. Happiness was nowhere in sight during those dark days, but the joy of knowing that Jesus was with me lifted my spirits continually. You replaced loss with sweet memories and assurance, fear with peace and healing. Knowing that you carried me close to your heart during these times (as at all times,) is hard to explain to others, but is known and understood by all those who know you. Thank you for this special season, thank you for the joy you give, and thank you most of all for Jesus! And because of Him, I can say Amen.”