Many folks use happiness and joy synonymously, especially this time of year, but there is a world of difference between the two. Happiness is more often than not circumstantial, that is, it is dependent upon your current situation. There are times when we are happy and times when we are obviously unhappy. Happiness is dependent on things that can be out of our control and so, as I drive this morning, I may be happy when all the lights are green or a bit unhappy when all the folks on their way to the airport slow the flow of traffic down. Happiness is fleeting.
Joy, on the other hand, is an internal condition that is wholly within you. It is not connected to the ups and downs of daily life nor is it dependent on circumstances out of your control. As we say earlier this week, Jesus points to something that lives within us as the source and meaning of our joy…
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:9-11)
The true joy of the Advent season is knowing the King. Our joy as followers of Christ is rooted in relationship with Jesus and the security that this communion brings. Unlike happiness, this joy is not affected by our external circumstance. We, like Paul, learn to be content in all circumstances knowing that our greatest reward still lies ahead.