What could be more fitting for this season than a Sunday devoted to Joy? Not much to be sure but what images come to mind when someone reminds you “Christmas is the season of joy” or says “Christmas is such a joyous time”? If you are like me you picture kids unwrapping presents or carolers or something like that. There is nothing wrong with these images but if you substitute “happy” for “joy” in those images nothing changes . . . but joy isn’t the same as happiness.
I fully realize the two words are frequently used interchangeably and I’m not about to put on my (rarely removed, let’s be honest) pedant’s hat and tell people they are using words incorrectly. However, I do want us as people who have a relationship with God through Jesus empowered by the Holy Spirit to give some thought to what it might mean to not equate these words. There is something fundamentally different about joy compared to happiness.
A reasonable working definition of happiness might be: Happiness is our reaction or response to external events. Happy-making things happen and we are happy.Hooray! Happiness is good, but what do we do with the various exhortations in Scripture to be joyful? To rejoice, to be joyful in all things? If “joy” = “happy” then are we supposed to be happy about a toothache? What about when someone we love is sick?
As is probably obvious by now, I think there is a better way to think about joy than simply being happy. Give either or both of the sermons a listen and let me know if I’ve convinced you.