I always loved the word "JOY".
I can remember being just a little tyke, in Sunday school. Each week, the teachers would write up a Bible verse in colorful Sharpies, and then post it on the wall in our classroom.
The very first verse we ever posted was about having a joyful heart. I don't remember the exact location, but it was somewhere in Psalms or Proverbs; however, I can remember that the verse was written in red marker with a squiggly line of orange around the border. And in the top right corner, was a great big red heart. I adored that verse, I looked at it every Sunday, feasting my eyes on the giant red heart which screamed "JOY" to me.
When our teachers told us that at the end of the teaching course, each kid could pick out one of the verses to take home, I knew instantly which one would be mine. I watched that Bible verse like a hawk, making sure none of the other kids seemed too interested in claiming it for their own.
Finally, the Sunday came when the verses were being taken off of the wall and distributed. For those kids who didn't have a favorite picked out, random verses were given. But I had made my choice weeks before, and I didn't waste any time, "I want THAT one!" I pointed very firmly at my joy verse. The teachers casually handed it to me, completely unaware of the amount of time and thought I had put into claiming my prize.
I looked down at the precious verse, the big, beautiful, red heart staring up at me from the paper.
Joy was mine!
I have been on the lookout for joy my whole life, searching for the sunshine, the beauty, the laughter.
The deepest joy I have ever felt was the day that I accepted Jesus. I was five years old. Mama told me about Jesus, and about heaven. I can remember how it physically felt, like a fountain, bubbling up from my very soul. I felt light and airy, I was jumping on the couch for joy, SO MUCH JOY!
Even at that age, I could feel the difference. Ever since that day, I have never experienced joy as deep as that. Sometimes, very rarely, I get a hint, a taste, and my appetite increases. I crave joy like I would a delectable dessert.
I know I am not alone in this. Every single human being on planet earth desires to feel joy. We want to laugh, jump, dance, and to cry for joy!
But we live in a fallen world, surrounded by sorrow, suffering, and darkness. Where are we supposed to find the joy?
I have cried out to God many times, "Where is the joy? How do I find it? I feel so dark, I feel like I'm drowning!"
Often, joy feels like a creature that has almost gone extinct.
But has it? Or are we just looking in the wrong place? Or, do I have a wrong expectation of what joy is?
Mary, the mother of Jesus, was just a teenager living in a pretty scary time. Foreigners held her land captive, she was to be married to a man whom she might have only recently met, and, oh yeah, she was pregnant before her wedding night, with the Son of God.
Tack on a journey of over a hundred miles on the back of a bony donkey, all ending in birthing the Son of God surrounded by animals and manure. Can you imagine the fear and the darkness that had to be surrounding her? All of the thoughts and torments swirling around in her head, "What if I fall off of this donkey and my baby gets hurt? What if the Romans stop us on our journey, and Joseph dies protecting me? What if I can't handle being the mother to God's only son? What if God chose the wrong woman?"
It would have been hard to find anything to feel joy about. Even the place she had to birth her baby in is like every pregnant woman's worst nightmare.
She had to choose joy in that moment, despite her fears, despite her uncertainties about the future, Mary had to have chosen joy. In that precious time, cuddling her Savior, Jesus, in her arms, surrounded by hay, sheep, shepherds, and manure; Mary had to choose joy.
To choose joy, is to continually choose to keep your eyes on Jesus.
Joy to the world, the Lord has come...
Joy, joy is often a choice. It is not based upon circumstances, upon good weather, or upon a perfection.
Just like my Bible verse, we must keep our eyes on the joy of Jesus and the Father, not allow anyone or anything to take it from us, and then, claim it loudly!
This Christmas, Joy is MINE!