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Advent - Joy

It's the third Sunday of Advent, and for many this can be a hard Sunday to celebrate because of loss or disappointment. How can we be joyful when there is so much hurt?

When I was little, I thought joy and happiness were the same thing. As I grew into my teen years, members of my church would decry that no, joy and happiness were not the same, but different: joy was constant; happiness came and went. We may not be happy about something, but we should always have joy.

Yeah. Right.

They are correct ... to a point: happiness is often dependent upon circumstances. Happiness is the state of feeling happy, and happy according to Merriam-Webster means "feeling pleasure and enjoyment because of your life, situation, etc.; showing or causing feelings of pleasure and enjoyment; pleased or glad about a particular situation, event, etc."

Joy, on the other hand, is "a feeling of great happiness; a source or cause of great happiness; something or someone that gives joy to someone; success in doing, finding, or getting something."

In a subtle difference, happiness is a result of circumstances, whereas joy is the result of actions. Joy, therefore, can be chosen, unlike happiness which may or may not be chosen. Interestingly, each of the advent aspects are elements that we choose: joy, peace, faith. The same is true for love also.

In none of these cases, however, do we make our choice lightly. We must evaluate what it is that we choose to do, or where we place our hope and faith. We can have joy in our circumstances because we have placed our faith and hope in Someone greater than us.

Yet, how do we find joy when our families are broken, or we have no money, or when it seems that our dreams are shattered, or even if our dreams seem to be going nowhere?

We choose to find joy in the small things. The last definition of joy is "success in doing, finding, or getting something." That something may be something large, something small, something tangible or something intangible. It might be finding the joy in the sun rising over a field of snow, or it might be enjoying a good book. It might be found in making a batch of cookies ... or making it through Christmas dinner without a fight. It's finding the good, and not dwelling on the bad. It's finding the here and the now, and not the what might have been.

We can choose to find joy in our everyday lives, but when those lives seem hard, it is often hardest to find joy, but I can assure you: choose to find joy in the everyday, and each day becomes joyful.


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