Christmas songs are full of expressions of joy. “Joy to the World.” “Good Christian Men, Rejoice.” “Tidings of comfort and joy” (from God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen). Christmas cards prominently feature the word joy, often with pictures depicting joyful people or events. The angels announced to the shepherds that they brought “tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” The Christmas season is just saturated with expressions of joy.
My husband – like many preachers – distinguishes between happiness and joy. Happiness depends on circumstances and feelings, which we have little control over. Joy is a choice, based on what we know of the goodness of God, and it can be ours even in the absence of happiness.
I know that with my head; actually living it out is much harder. When I think of images of Christmas that I associate with joy, such as gathering with friends or family, exchanging presents, decorating (especially with objects collected through the years, that remind me of family and friends I no longer see), and singing Christmas carols, I don’t know whether those are experiences of joy or just of happiness.
I’ve decided, though, over the years, that it’s silly to worry about whether I feel good because I’m feeling joy or only happiness. I have many blessings to be thankful for, including the ways that we celebrate the Christmas season. When I’m not happy, then I need to learn to choose joy. But when I am finding delight in celebrating this special season, I don’t need to get overly introspective.
May you have a joyful Christmas!