The third Sunday of Advent is the Sunday of Joy.
Joy is a very tricky thing when you actually think about it, especially when you compare it with happiness. There are a number of ways to think about the two but the best comparison I’ve come up with so far is: happiness is a result of circumstance while Joy is an inward reality independent of circumstance. To put it another way, things, occurrences, events, etc. make you happy. For example, receiving a gift makes you happy, the relative who lives far away coming for a visit makes you happy, your sports team winning makes you happy (not every happy-making thing is big and significant). Joy on the other hand is a deeper, more settled part of who you are. It is possible to be joyful and unhappy at the same time.
I did a quick and very unscientific survey of “happiness” and “joy” in the New Revised Standard Version. Happiness occurs 7 times; Joy occurs 267 times . . . not definitive but might be considered suggestive as to which is more important in the Bible.
No matter where you find yourself in this discussion, I hope one or both of these sermons will be helpful to you in this season of Advent as you move into the season of Christmas.
“Joy. Better than happiness?” Knox Presbyterian (to download, right click and select “Save Link As . . .”)
“Joy. Better than happiness?” St. Mark’s Presbyterian (to download, right click and select “Save Link As . . .”)
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