In the season of cheer and merriness I’m often struck by the starkness of contrast I see. Amidst the greeting cards and well-wishing bell-ringers on street corners, all the obligatory parties and gift exchanges, advertising frenzy, I see the cashier whose eyes held an emptiness that betrayed every ounce of happiness the store could muster.
I see the brisk-walkers whose steps follow a grim, resolute rhythm of escape. I see those public service workers who never get a day off, checking every calendar day off with dread, their countdown to Christmas more like a ticking reminder of fearful futility.
It hits me more this time of year than any other – that contrast – but it isn’t only external.
It’s the internal stomach-sinking grief I feel facing a world without the joy I’ve found.
I’m winding down a year in no state of manic, euphoric excitement – I’m tired. It’s been a long year brimming with busyness and obligations and more questions than answers. I’ve felt that depleted, burnt-out exhaustion this year – I’ve felt tired and discouraged and overwhelmed. But the difference is, despite what I feel, I have joy.
Lewis once wrote: “I sometimes wonder whether all pleasures are not substitutes for joy” — and I wonder with him when all the world’s desperate attempts to prolong pleasure fizzle out into futility – because no earthly pleasure is fully secure or guaranteed or eternal. All pleasures are just a substitute for the wellspring of knowing Joy that transcends all pleasure and happiness the world could possibly offer.
We can never find cheer in anything we can’t take confidence in. We can never resort to trite self-help slogans telling us to choose to be happy. We can never wish joy into existence or manifest contentment. It’s a wonder that in a world plagued with tragedy and depression and the worst kinds of surprises that we can even think it’s possible. We medicate with materialism and fuel ourselves with futility – and it’s fatal to the very thing we’re desperate to obtain.
The season advertising cheer spends it’s time on the trappings and misses the point.
Joy can be ours because God came to be with us, and in His coming He lived the life we couldn’t and died the death we all deserved and resurrected in glory to secure the eternal joy of salvation for anyone who believes Him.
The next-step on your joy-journey? Believe Him. If you know Him, believe what He promises His own. If you don’t know Him, believe He is Who He says: the only Salvation, the only escape from the cyclical emptiness of a broken world.
The wildest, most wondrous truth is that God sent Jesus to be with us – and in His salvation is the only abundant, unbridled, everlasting joy.
Merry Christmas, there’s joy for you in Jesus.