Lots of ink has been used in the past two millennia to discuss the meaning of joy. What can I add to this conversation in this little blog? And what can you, the preacher add to the discussion in your little sermon this coming Sunday?
It’s good for a preacher to remember that her or his calling re the preaching event is not to re-invent the wheel. Sometimes it is enough to simply kick the tires, make sure they’re not flat, or to remove the hubcaps and replace them with something different, perhaps a bit more shiny.
You could revisit the oft-discussed contrast between happiness and joy. I like the idea that whereas the opposite of happiness is sadness or sorrow, the opposite of joy is anxiety, worry or fear.
To say that with the birth of Jesus joy entered the world is to say that when Jesus entered the world, those who cradle the Christ child in their arms, and carry him in their hearts are liberated from anxiety. And in the absence of anxiety and worry, how can one not face each day with unmitigated joy?
Joy is what’s left over, when fear and anxiety are removed.
We can manipulate our situation to be happy. But joy is something else. You can’t be worry-free by telling yourself not to worry. Freedom from anxiety is a gift that comes to us through faith in Jesus Christ. And when that gift is received, we experience it as joy.
When we hear the birds singing outside our window, it sounds joyful. Do bird worry? No, they build their nests, look for their daily food, fly to a higher perch and warble without worry.
On this Sunday we recall that of all that the coming of Christ means to us, is certainly means the promise of joy. I need not remind you, the preacher, that in our world these days, those who possess joy, though they may be poor in the eyes of the world, are rich—beyond compare!