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Contagious Joy

Written by Eric Weiner

My oldest daughter likes to dance. She’s coordinated and silly. When she dances she seems so free; so alive. There’s a joy that radiates from her.

On occasion, she’ll ask if we can have a dance party. I can think of few things I’d rather do less. But when she asks, I find it hard to turn down. I actually kind of enjoy it because I enjoy her joy.

She can make up moves on the spot. She’ll do something silly and totally laugh at herself. It’s like the attention is half the fun. Then she’ll want me to swing her around and toss her in the air – all the things that hurt my body and make me feel old. But then she asks me, “Can we do it again?”

It’s hard to resist. I guess you could say her joy is contagious.

My son is into the Marvel Universe right now.

He can tell you the secret identities of people like Steve Rogers and Tony Stark. His face lights up if you ask him who King T’Challa is. I’m still learning about this world. It didn’t really appeal to me growing up. But he’s taken a vested interest in it, and I’ve taken a vested interest in him.

The other day he asked me what villain I was so he could play-fight with me. Not knowing what to say, I told him I worked for Hydra. Not the best answer, I know. But now, when I come home from work he asks me, “Daddy, can you be High Drop?”

It’s hard to resist. I guess you could say his joy is contagious.

My youngest daughter is almost two. Maybe the best way to describe her is that she’s a beam of joy. Really, it’s her whole demeanor most of the time. When she sees me walk into the room her face lights up and validates my whole existence. How does she do that?

Her middle name means friend, and she’s truly the best kind of companion. In moments of sadness – I don’t know how to explain it – she has this knack for turning sad moments into joy. I’ve even seen her run over to people she hardly knows to give them a hug. It seems intuitive for her.

Sometimes you need a moment to yourself. But then she comes out of nowhere to cuddle up beside you. That’s when you realize, “I didn’t need to be alone. I needed this.”

It’s hard to resist. I guess you could say her joy is contagious.

Observing the joy found in children has helped bring my affections for Christ’s birth into focus this Advent season. Theirs is a joy that’s innocent and untamed. Seemingly over the top, and yet appropriate. Pure and energetic and so filled with life.

It doesn’t hide the darkness that abounds. And yet, it’s as if the darkness is being swallowed by joy.

It’s like that line from O Holy Night:

“The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices…”

When I think of a weary world, a real-to-life experience begins to settle in. When you’re weary, it’s not just that you’re tired. Plenty of people are tired but push through. No, when you’re weary, you feel tired but you also look tired. You look worn down.

And if that’s you – if you’re tired to the point of exhaustion in these dark and anxious days – it’s okay if you look it. Our God came to a weary world. He knows about weary people. Disillusioned or disappointed. Going through the motions; trying to get from one day to the next. It’s good that we acknowledge it.

But you also must know that He doesn’t leave us there. In His good will, He enters into our weariness but then brings us into His…


Maybe it’s logical to think that the joy my kids experience will wane with a dose of realism. But better yet, maybe their joy is an object lesson God is using to wake me from my own stupor and to remember what He has done and to continue trusting in who He is and what He will do.

On the night of Jesus’ birth, an angel of the Lord appeared to shepherds saying:

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”

(Luke 2:10-11)

It’s not wrong to feel somber. But it’s also very appropriate to be rejoicing. In fact, we don’t need to be mild mannered about it. We don’t need to temper expectations. We’re talking about a joy caused by the God-incarnate King.

That looks to me like a joy increasing.

And it’s hard to resist. I guess you could say His joy is contagious.

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