Our local radio station started playing Christmas music…and only Christmas music…on November 12. Everything from “Joy to the World” to “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” saturates the airwaves, 24-7.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas music. Some of my earliest memories include curling up by the record player (yes, we still had one of those!), listening to Nat King Cole sing “O Tannenbaum” (in German, no less) after we had trekked out to the bush to cut down our tree. These days I have playlists on YouTube and Spotify dedicated to festive tunes.
This year isn’t so merry and bright, is it? If you’re like me, maybe you’re having to dig a little deeper to find that “joy to the world.” Is that still a thing in this wearisome Covid life?
While tinsel and trappings, carols and hot chocolate might elicit feelings of happiness, they don’t actually constitute true joy. Finding the latest gadget under the tree might make you content…for a while. Gathering with family and friends is something we long for, but joy is even more than that.
Consider it pure joy
The apostle Paul writes, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4 NLT, italics added).
If there is one thing we’ve experienced this year, it’s trials of many kinds, and the testing of our faith. We had no idea when 2020 started what we were heading into. We feel the lack; of good health, of connection with others, of the comforts found in “normal” times.
Yet Paul tells us to consider trials to be “pure joy.” Note that he’s not saying “pure happiness”…because it isn’t that! He probably wasn’t too happy about languishing in a prison cell. But there he was, singing hymns and praising God.
Joy is found as we persevere, as we press on and press in to Jesus. In Him we find the space to lament what was, to readjust our focus to see what is, and with hope, look forward to what is yet to come. Pure joy, while not easy, transcends our current circumstances. As we hold on to Jesus, joy and hope and peace will take root.
May we turn our eyes to Jesus this season and beyond, and once again let our hearts “prepare Him room.” Joy to the world. The Lord is come. Let heaven and earth proclaim.
Kelly Rempel is the Director of Creative Communications for One Hope Canada.