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The holiday season is fast approaching. It seems like about eleven months or so ago it was Christmas, and here it is again already!The local Rite-Aid store near me replaced the sunblock display with bayberry, peppermint and cinnamon scented candles. In fact, for a week or so, the two displays were actually side-by-side, causing one to ponder, Is something wrong with this picture?
Just thinking about the month of December brings to mind many activities: family gatherings, parties, shopping, exchanging gifts, time away from work or school, road trips, celebrations ...
The Christmas season can be an emotional time as well. Anger, anxiousness, loneliness, sadness, emptiness, worry. It's no wonder some people cringe when you wish them Merry Christmas, even without the whole "politically correct religious tolerance" broughaha.
One of the more popular Christmas songs is "Joy to the world!" Joy. What is joy, anyway? If you're a regular reader of my ponderings, you know that when I dive into deep questions, one of my favorite resources for answers is (dun-dun-DUNNN!) a Facebook poll! (and most of you know by now that when I post a poll, it usually means I'll be using the answers in a post.) So, I asked my facebook friends and family, and some of their friends as well, the following question:
Aside from family and chocolate, what brings you joy?
Mountains. Waterfalls. Smiles from babies and old people. Fall leaves. Spring tulips. Summer sun. Winter frost. Changed lives. Good friends. Scrapbooking. Reading. Music. Being out on the water. Polka-dots. Elvis impersonators. Patches (I'm not sure I understand that one). Dancing. Living. Music. Weddings. Dancing to live music at weddings. The dog. God. Being successful with a project. Girlfriends. Laughing. A clean house. Laughing with girlfriends in a clean house.
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of what brings people joy, but just thinking of a few of these is enough to put a smile on your face, if only for a few seconds. But what is it about these things that turns on the joy-button for us?
Braniac me would ask that question, wouldn't I? And I'm not going to leave you with a simplistic textbook answer, although that would be a place to start in finding one. Starting with the basic dictionary.com definition, "joy" is a noun, meaning "the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation."
Hmm ... "an emotion ... caused by something ..." Joy is not something that just happens! Did you know that? I didn't ... Let's go deeper into the ponder ...
Joy is a "fruit of the Spirit." I learned that back in my Catholic grade school days. It's in the Bible. The apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatian church, "the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." (Galatians 5:22-23, NLT)
So, God, in the person of the Holy Spirit, pushes our buttons. I don't think anyone would disagree there. But God doesn't push our buttons for no reason, although we may sometimes think it seems that way. The passage says the Holy Spirit "produces the fruit." What? Joy isn't instantaneous? It's not spontaneous? Well, no, not always. Not all Elvis impersonators bring on feelings of joy. And be careful of the baby's smile - there may be something messy behind it.
Back to the earlier definition of Joy as the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying.
emotion ... caused by something ... produced by the Holy Spirit ...
Time for another definition, this time in the form of an acronym:
JOY: = Jesus, Others, You.
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and Love your neighbor as yourself." (Luke 10:27)
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others." (Philippians 2:3-4)
Are you getting it?
Joy is the happy state that is found in knowing and serving God!
This week's blog theme is "Finish This." Actually, it was last week's theme, but I'll let you in on a secret. I didn't finish this post in time! But as I do finally finish this, I shall close with a challenge to all, young and old alike.
As you make your way through the chaos of the upcoming Christmas season, take time to know and serve God. And repe-eat, repe-e-eat the sounding joy!