Summary: During the Christmas season, we find ourselves in a deficit of joy. Isaiah describes finding joy in the desert . . . perhaps we are seeking joy in the wrong places.
How many of you are just absolutely overflowing with joy right now? Let’s be honest with each other, OK? Is there even one person here who can truthfully say, I’m so overflowing with joy I can hardly contain myself? Just one?
Would you like to know how to get that kind of joy in your life? Would you? Or are you happy running at – let’s say, 20% joy? Do you think you might have room for a little more joy in your life?
We’re going to talk about joy today. And, I promise, if you stay awake and alert for the next 20 minutes, you might find out why joy has escaped you all these years. And you may actually leave today feeling more joyful and hopeful than you’ve felt in a long, long while. Money back guarantee.
Joy. I think we all realize we don’t have as much of it as we’d like to. In fact, this time of year can be a hard time of year for some folks. I know a man whose mother died at the beginning of Advent, and his father died towards the end of Advent. This time of year is anything but joyful for him – and I expect his gloominess rubs off on the rest of the family. Perhaps it is for him, and others like him, that the Fairport Churches have worked together to offer a ‘Blue Christmas’ service to people who are feeling blue at this time of year.
Lot’s of people aren’t filled to overflowing with the kind of joy that seem to pervade our Christmas Carols and Christmas Cards and all things Christmas. Why is that? We live in the wealthiest country on earth. What’s wrong?
Maybe the first thing we need to examine is some of the places where we believe we can find joy, the places where we think our joy should be coming from.
Some people hope to find joy in their career. And indeed, there are some famous examples of people who actually loved their career – and couldn’t wait to go off to work. Although I can’t think of anyone right off the top of my head. Let’s take a poll. Now how many of us find perfect joy in what we do for a living – so that we can’t wait to get there in the morning? Can I see your hands?
For those of us who don’t find joy in our career, we hope to find joy in our vacation. “Man, if I could just get away from this place for a few weeks, then all will be right with the world. If I could only hunt, or fish, or lie on the beach and read several good books, or travel Europe, or whatever, I’ll be myself again.”
I think we’ve probably all felt that way at different times in our lives. Sometimes, though, vacations aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. I know one family who makes great vacation plans, but they always seem to come home early. Why is that? It’s because the vacation is more stressful and troubling than normal life! One of my favorite vacation memories, which I think I shared before, was when my mother thought it would be a good idea, after several days of vacation, to place my brother and I – who never got along all that well - on a very small boat – a Sunfish. And she sent us out into the Pacific Ocean for a three hour tour. I wonder if she was hoping we would land on Gilligan’s Island, so she could have a real vacation from two troublesome teen boys! Often, vacations do not give us a sense of abundant and overflowing joy. Especially since they soon come to an end, and we are left paying the VISA bill when it comes.
Most people hope to find joy in their family. In relationships with their parents. Or husband. Or wife. Or in-laws. Or children. And there are seasons when joy abounds in families. And it’s great. And we should find joy in our family. But there are other times when family is less of a joy. When there is illness. Or when aging parents need to be cared for. Or a death occurs. Or someone squabbles with someone else. Or disowns them. Then, family is no longer a joy. It’s work. It’s a burden. A duty.
I know most of you pretty well now. And I would have to say there are few that have a charmed life in terms of family. Almost all of you have someone in the family that you have reason to be concerned about. We can not always find joy in our family.
Let’s talk about friends. Many people hope to find joy in their friends. Friends are a good thing! Friends can make us feel joyful – such friends are a wonderful gift. Sometimes, when family gives us reasons to be sad, or concerned, or even angry, friends can come in and restore our perspective. Because of the kind of community this is, I know some of you have been able to forge life-long friendships. And that’s great! That’s a joy. Unfortunately, it’s a joy many people have never experienced, and will never experience. Because life is changing. And few people have stability any more. I understand the average person will change jobs seven times of the course of a career, often relocating. And friendships are lost. And even if we don’t relocate, friendships can still be lost. Sometimes, our friends are angry with us. Or we with them. Or they are too busy to notice – that we need a friend right now. It is hard to find sustained joy – the kind that makes us vibrant and overflowing – from friends.