Written by Rev. Doug Cue, District Superintendent of the Golden Valley District
FOLKS…What’s the easiest thing for you to lose? I think I know what it is for me…it’s my glasses, I am losing them all the time. Or maybe it is the clicker for the power point…I am always putting it down somewhere. Ask Miss Jodie what it is, and she would probably tell you…”His mind”.
All of those might be correct, but the easiest thing for me to lose, in reality…is JOY. All it takes is…one phone call, one email, one letter, or one conversation, a simple TV commercial, or an article in the paper…joy is the easiest thing in the world for me to lose.
I want to bring a couple of images to mind as we consider joy.
The first is a specific scene from the movie, “Elf”. For those not familiar with the film, “Elf” is the story of Buddy the Elf. Thirty years ago, Buddy was a baby in an orphanage who stowed away in Santa's sack and ended up at the North Pole. Raised as an elf…and knowing nothing to the contrary… for thirty years he only thought of himself as an elf…a rather large elf…who being rather naïve and clumsy…inadvertently wreaks havoc on the entire elf community. After learning that he’s not really an elf, he goes to New York city in search of his true identity. In one particular scene, he has a job in a department store, and it just happens to be at Christmas time. The store manager announces that “Santa will be in the store tomorrow”…and Buddy the Elf’s response borders on manic. He is screaming, and shouting, and celebrating, and dancing…while everyone else is “business as usual”. After being confronted by the store manager, he calms down…and the scene closes with the excitement visible in his face as he whispers, “Santa is coming”.
…Is That Joy?...
Here is another. Every couple of years or so, some film studio puts out another "life of Christ" movie. I have noticed that…no matter how pious or reverent, how controversial or creative…many of these films generally share a common vision of what Jesus was like. Usually Jesus is presented as some tall, long haired, solemn, sermon spouting dude…which tends to suggest that being the Messiah was some kind of…soul-sobering, and mind-sombering kind of business.
…Is That Joy?...
Does it not strike you as odd, that joy is more readily observed in the traditions of Santa Clause, than it is in the witness of Christians?
Let me give you a picture of JOY. From Luke’s gospel…chapter one…verses 39-45…
In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’
Mary comes before Elizabeth. They are related, and Elizabeth recognizes Mary. She recognizes that Mary is pregnant…so is Elizabeth…and Elizabeth acknowledges that Mary has been chosen to be the mother of the Lord. Her unborn child is the Son of God. Upon hearing Mary’s voice, Elizabeth’s unborn child…who will be John the Baptist…her unborn child…”leapt for joy”…
…He Jumps For Joy...
…When’s the last time you jumped for joy?...
As adults we tend to think that we’ve outgrown that. We have relegated that for certain occasions…like…when the Hawks get invited to the Rose Bowl, or the Cubs win the World Series, or the Chiefs make it to the Super Bowl. It’s usually restricted to sporting events.
…When’s the last time you jumped for joy at Christmas?...
John the Baptist did. I think Jesus does too.
When I think of the life of Jesus…when I picture it in my mind, when I feel it in my heart…I have never thought of Jesus, experienced Jesus, or imagined Jesus as some somber, sober-minded preacher being on his way. That doesn’t work for me. What I see is JOY!
In the gospel…when Jesus healed the man who had been confined to his bed for years…don't you think both the healed and the healer probably grabbed each other, whooped it up, and danced, and jumped for joy at the wonder of such a miracle?
Do you really think that Jesus…when Jairus’ daughter was dead, and he went and raised her…when she started breathing again, when she was filled with life again…do you really think He would have just patted her on the head and walked away?
He would have scooped that little girl up in his arms. He would have swung her around in delight. He would have jumped for joy…because her life was a miracle.
…He Jumps For Joy...
I guarantee that you are going to see and hear this word a lot over the next few weeks…JOY. I encourage you to get real specific with it. Joy is not the same as cheeriness. It’s not the same as pleasure. It is not the life-of-the-party kind of thing. Joy is about a sense of trust. It is living out of a deep sense that everything is alright…even when it’s not. Joy is about seeing the bigger picture…and knowing that it is good, knowing that I belong to it, and knowing that I am loved in it.
When’s the last time you jumped for joy?
We who are adults, one of the things that makes Christmas so joyful is seeing the wide-eyed expressions of wonder on little faces. Children know about joy. We adults can lose our joy so easily. What does it take to rob you of your joy?
The Excedrin Headache Resource Center…that’s an actual website…the Excedrin Headache Resource Center…they took a poll to find out what threatens folk’s joy. Here is a list of the joy robbers they discovered during the holiday season…
Anybody able to relate to any of these? Probably. So what do we do? Instead of limping through the season to survive it…which just kills joy…how do you leap for joy in it? Perhaps we simply get intentional about some simple specifics. These are some of mine…
Intention 1: Know that joy is not an emotion. Joy is not a feeling. Joy is an attitude
Anger, happiness, sadness…those are emotions. These are feelings and they get triggered. They are fleeting and they never last.
Joy is a path you walk.
Intention 2: Know that I will never express joy outside myself until I experience it in myself.
Intention 3: Know that I will never have a season of joy unless I develop a sense of humor.
Let me unpack that. I am not talking about joking around or being silly. I am referring to the gift of perspective…don’t take it too serious, avoid taking it personal. There are things I need to be serious about, but when I find myself keeping score in life, I will never find joy.
My prayer for all of creation this season is that we find that joy…that makes us leap, makes us dance, and reminds us that we are called to share it.
Blessings in this Advent season. Amen.