Advent Week 3: Joy-An Appetite Filled
Written by Toni Anderson
Joy and happiness can frequently be conflated in our culture. At times it seems like our culture is on a never-ending pursuit of happiness and I bet if we’re being honest, we’d say we can get swept up into it too. We can easily turn to seeking temporary happiness from created things rather than the creator. However, joy is different from happiness. Biblical joy is anchored in something outside of ourselves, it’s something that God produces in our heart.
We often hear joy associated with children. Why? Because apart from God, the world slowly steals joy. The more we move around in this world, we leak joy when we look away from God. To the world, joy is for the naive. Having joy in a world this broken is untenable to many. To care deeply for justice in our communities means you must be outraged at the state of the world. Outrage is contagious, but in a way that steals our joy. Biblical joy is contagious because it breathes life into those around us. Author Joni Erickson Tada explains that like the burning bush in Exodus 3, a joyful Christian should cause the world to be unable to look away. When Moses sees the burning bush he must be thinking, “That makes no sense. There is no rational explanation for why that bush isn’t being consumed by the fire.” The same is true when we display joy to a watching world. There is no rational explanation for having joy in the midst of grief . But God.
Psalm 16:11 is a verse that comes to mind for many of us when we think about joy. It says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy, at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” The word for fullness in Hebrew is soba, which means satisfaction, typically related to food in its uses throughout the Old Testament (Exodus 16:3, Ruth 2:18). The joy of the Lord is satisfying, an appetite filled. The presence of the Lord is where true, full joy is found.
When we think about Christmas, the word joy probably comes to mind often. Joy to the world. Good tidings of comfort and joy. Joyful all ye nations rise. O Come all ye faithful, joyful, and triumphant. If you listen for it, joy is everywhere during the Advent season. At the same time, joy can feel elusive during December. Maybe Christmas time reminds us of difficult memories, complicated family dynamics, or the sting of loneliness. Maybe this season has become all about material possessions or the beauty of what happened at the first advent has become stale to you. No matter where we are, God meets us there. He meets us with a reminder that Christmas is about Emmanuel, God with us. God became man and dwelt among us. He willingly stepped into brokenness, despite having the riches of heaven. This is what we proclaim when we sing “Hark the Herald Angel Sings”:
Mild He lays his glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth.
God’s presence with his people brings complete, full, satisfying joy. This should produce joy in us! A joy that is not dependent on circumstances or situations but is anchored in Christ by the Spirit within us. If joy feels fleeting or misplaced this season, let’s ask God to give to us joy. Ask that God would give you a fullness of joy found only in Him, guiding us to see the beauty of the Advent season.