ABC Extra – Serious Joy

January 10, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

“Behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was.  When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” (Matthew 2:9-10).  Now that’s some big time joy!  After all, the wise men didn’t just rejoice, they rejoiced exceedingly.  And they didn’t only have joy, they had great joy.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “Joy is the serious business of heaven” (Letters to Malcolm, 93).  Dallas Willard puts it like this:  “God is the happiest being in the universe” (“Wide Awake,” Leadership, Fall 1994).  Thus, when the wise men “rejoice exceedingly with great joy,” they are simply reflecting the character of God by responding appropriately to the gift of God.  They respond with joy to Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately, many of us do not heed C.S. Lewis’ call to take joy seriously nearly seriously enough.  We are all too often content with being bitter, anxious, or forlorn.  But joy is not only the serious business of heaven, it is also the serious business of Christians on earth.  This is why Paul, when speaking of the fruit of the Spirit, places joy only second to love (cf. Galatians 5:22).  He elsewhere says, “Be joyful always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16).  Joy, then, is not an option, but a command!

With this in mind, it is worth reflecting on how joyful you really are.  Here are some questions that may help you think about your joyfulness:

  • When was the last time a person made you smile with a kind action or gift?
  • How often do you chuckle at the marvel of God’s creation – whether it be a pet who does something goofy or a scene from nature which brings a smile to your face?
  • When you worship, does your heart leap within you as it did with the Psalmist (cf. Psalm 28:7)?
  • When was the last time you laughed so hard you cried?

Certainly life comes with its ups and downs and, sometimes, things can become so wearisome that joy is the farthest thing from your mind.  Indeed, during these times, you may even look at Paul’s admonition to “be joyful always” with a mild contempt and silently grumble about the unrealistic nature of such a command.  But it is at times like these that it is important to remember that joy is not only a command, it is a gift.  It is a gift to dull a hard season and heal a broken heart.  And it is a gift that comes straight from the character of God.

Hard seasons are things the wise men knew well.  For they arrived at Bethlehem only after a long journey from an undisclosed location back east, followed by an interrogation from a menacing despot named Herod.  The wise men had a lot to be stressed and upset about.  But they nevertheless found joy because they nevertheless found Jesus.  And Jesus is where true joy is to be found.

So are you feeling stressed and upset?  Does joy elude you?  Like the wise men, cling to the cradle of the Christ.  For in the gurgle of this Child is the joy of the ages.  In the words of Johann Sebastian Bach:

Jesu, joy of man’s desiring,
Holy wisdom, love most bright;
Drawn by Thee, our souls aspiring
Soar to uncreated light.
Word of God, our flesh that fashioned,
With the fire of life impassioned,
Striving still to truth unknown,
Soaring, dying round Thy throne.
Through the way where hope is guiding,
Hark, what peaceful music rings;
Where the flock, in Thee confiding,
Drink of joy from deathless springs.
Theirs is beauty’s fairest pleasure;
Theirs is wisdom’s holiest treasure.
Thou dost ever lead Thine own
In the love of joys unknown.

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