For many of us, 2020 was a difficult and painful year where many problems were amplified by the Covid-19 pandemic. For our family, 2020 included a tragedy that has impacted us every day. In many respects, 2020 had been anything but a “Happy New Year.” However, after hearing Maureen’s December 13th message on Joy, it has brought home the fact that joy is not happiness, it is so much more. When I thought about that message, I thought about how I would define joy. Here is what I came up with. Joy is fulfillment, contentment and satisfaction despite life’s circumstances. In the gospel of Luke, chapters 1 and 2, the angel Gabriel tells Zechariah that Elizabeth’s baby John will be “a joy and delight to his parents”. The baby John “leaped for joy” when he came into the presence of Jesus in Mary’s womb. Later, after Jesus’ birth, the angel told the shepherds that the birth of Jesus would bring great joy to the world. Joy in these verses speaks of a fulfillment of ancient prophecies. Happiness is fleeting and the pursuit of happiness disappoints. However, joy has an eternal quality and the pursuit of joy does not disappoint. Joy is a choice. God is the originator. Nehemiah 8:10 says: “… Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” I am on a journey and I’m discovering that it’s possible to have joy even when circumstances are difficult and happiness seems absent. Joy is a fruit of the spirit (Gal.5:22) and as I read the scriptures, I see that it rises above circumstances, pain and trials. 2 Corinthians 8:2 talks about the joy of the Macedonian churches: “In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.” James 1:2,3 also speaks of joy amidst trials: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” It’s obvious from these verses that, if I choose, I can have joy in the midst of any negative circumstance in my life. I also know that even the hardest trials are not purposeless. To me, the most profound verse about joy is Hebrews 12:2 (1b – 2): “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” His choice to die for us is described as joy! I thank Jesus that he made that choice, for you and for me! Because he sacrificed earthly happiness for eternal joy, we all have eternal life through him. Christ chose to pick up his cross for a bigger purpose. I realize now that I may also have to do the same. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, I know this is possible. Our joy is that God is with us (Immanuel). As Isaac Watts wrote in 1719, “Joy to the world! The Lord is come!” I certainly want to wish everyone in our church a Happy New Year, but much more than that, I wish everyone a New Year filled with God’s joy.
I would like to leave you with a blessing from Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Have a joyous New Year! In Christ’s Love, Ron MacKay