Many of us were raised with the understanding that Christmas joy comes in the form of presents, believing that a certain special gift was the key to our happiness, the fulfillment of our wishes. Someone was going to know us well enough and care about us enough that the deepest desires of our heart would be realized.
I Thessalonians 5:16 tells us to “be joyful always.”
That seems a bit unrealistic, maybe overly optimistic.
Interesting that in context, it is paired with the command to pray continuously.
“Be joyful always, pray continuously.” Hmmm.
Seeing this actually helped me to understand how we could be expected to be joyful always. To pray continuously requires that we grow in our understanding of God’s presence, no longer segregating our lives into compartments of sacred and secular activities. In order to pray continuously, we embrace an underlying frequency of God’s presence that is constant, whether we are tuned in or not.
Likewise, the scriptures tell us that our joy is made complete and that we experience fullness of joy in God’s presence. So rather than working at being joyful, experiencing joy is an awareness of the constance of God’s presence in our life which we can access at any time. His presence isn’t something we have to work up, but instead it is a constant reality that we simply open ourselves up to.
Joy isn’t a happy feeling that happens to us when everything is going right or when we get all of the things that we want. It also isn’t a fake happiness that we are expected to drum up in spite of our circumstances. It is a gift given to us by His Spirit as we experience God’s presence.
They were wrong. Christmas joy isn’t about presents. It’s all about Presence.
Other advent bloggers: