There is a big difference between happiness and joy. Many people think that what they want is happiness and spend a lot of time trying to find it. However, happiness is a matter of a neurochemical process in the brain. Maybe this will help to understand this. I love chocolate chip cookies…. In fact, I can eat a whole box of Freihofer’s chocolate chip cookies in one setting. Don’t ask me why; they just taste good. However, the happy feeling doesn’t last long. Once the sugar rush is over; the happy high is over and I want more. Happiness is not a permanent thing; it ebbs and flows depending on a lot of things.
Joy, on the other hand, is something deeper and permanent. Joy results from a deepening and living relationship with Jesus. Many this example will help. Just over three years ago, my Mom died at 93 years. Even though she lived a good live and we were able to keep her home, it was one of the hardest things I have gone through. On the day of her funeral and everything was over, I went back to my brother’s house, got changed and went out for a bike ride. I had decided that at the end of the ride I would stop back at the cemetery. As I rode in the cemetery, got off my bike and walked to her grave, despite how sad I felt, I felt the most overwhelming sense of peace and joy. My Dad had died almost 40 years ago and she had missed him everyday since. As I walked to their graves, I knew they were back together and were home with the Lord. This is joy. It is not dependent on anything. Joy is rooted in God himself and is always there and we can always depend on it.
Isn’t this the true meaning of Christmas? Jesus took on flesh to show us that life is not about chasing fleeting happiness; His birth shows us that life is about a relationship with him that is so deep and abiding that even the darkest moments of life are permeated with His Divine Light and Presence.
As the feast of Christmas draws near, may we find our true gift and joy, not under the Christmas tree, but in Jesus and our relationship with him. Rejoice in the Lord always in all things.