Summary: The angel announced a message of "great joy". But the world often confuses Joy with Happiness and ends up being disappointed. What brings us joy and what difference does that make in our lives?
OPEN: I love to sing Christmas Carols, so this morning we’re going to start out the sermon with “Joy to the World”. If you would, stand and sing it with me.
1. Joy to the world the Lord has come, let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare him room
And heaven and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing
And heaven and heaven and nature sing
2. Joy to the earth the Savior reigns, let men their songs employ
While fields and floods rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy, repeat the sounding joy
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.
3. He rules the world with truth and grace and makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness, and wonders of His love
And wonders of His love; and wonders, wonders of His love."
Now that Christmas Carol reminds of story of scripture. Can you think of what story it reminds me of? Well we read the story at beginning of the story: “And the angel said to (the shepherds), ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you GOOD NEWS OF GREAT JOY that will be for all the people (“Joy To The World”). For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.’” Luke 2:10-12
(See appendix at the end of the sermon)
The angel said “I bring you Good News of Great JOY!!!”
The video we used at the opening of our service touched on this joy - and I remember how odd it sounded to me when I first heard it. In case you’ve forgotten, here are the words from the video: “Maybe things are going to be great, or maybe you’re in the struggle of your life, or somewhere in between. Jesus came to bring us JOY through all the ups and downs. JOY shows up when we least expect it.” (This video came with the package we purchased from Outreach.com as part of their 5-week Advent & Christmas Eve Campaign which used clips from “The Star” – a movie distributed by Sony Pictures).
That seemed to me like an odd introduction to this idea of Joy. I mean, the idea that Joy would come even in the struggles, and the ups & downs of life. But then I looked up some Bible verses about joy and I encountered these verses:
Psalm 30:5 “…Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”
Psalm 126:5 “Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!”
And Jesus said: “…You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.” John 16:20
Now that just seems strange. It doesn't seem logical that Joy would still be in a life struggling with hardship. I wouldn’t think that Joy would be able to survive in sadness and difficulty. But apparently it can. And part of the reason that I might struggle with that idea is because I (and apparently many others) tend to confuse joy with happiness.
Did you realize there’s a difference between happiness and joy? Well, there is!!! And the difference is basically this: HAPPINESS is a human emotion which is based on what HAPPENS to me.
ILLUS: One psychiatrist noted that the idea of happiness comes to us from ancient European words that meant “luck” or “chance”. “Hap is the Old Norse and Old English root of happiness, and it just means luck or chance...” Europeans believed that “… happiness was NOT something you could control. It was in the hands of the gods, dictated by Fate or Fortune, controlled by the stars, but not something that you or I could really count upon or make for ourselves. Happiness, literally, was what happened to us, and that was ultimately out of our hands.”
(Darrin M. McMahon, Ph.D. — YES! Magazine www.yesmagazine.org/happiness/a-history-of-happiness)
This same author noted that many modern people tend to view happiness as “something ‘OUT THERE’ - something that can be pursued, caught, and consumed.” He says this can lead to what he calls “the UNhappiness of NOT being happy”.
Essentially they’re not happy because… they’re not happy!
You see, the problem with “happiness” is that - if happiness is the goal in my life - it’s deceptive. Happiness depends on what HAPPENS TO me. Thus – if happiness is my goal – then I’m only going to be content when I have more money, or I have a better job, or if I have a better home, or if I have a better spouse … and on and on and on.
By contrast, Biblical JOY is something entirely different. Biblical joy can show up in the midst of sorrow and loss and difficulty, because it’s not tied to what happens in my life. It’s tied to being around Jesus.