John 15:11 NLT I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!
So last week, I skipped over this Advent theme of “joy.” I’m not one of those people that forces myself to speak on something if I’m not feeling it. I write typically out of my own heart because it feels more authentic for myself, and I don’t want to pretend to be something that I’m not. I especially didn’t want to pretend to have joy when I really did not. I know that Advent is supposed to prepare us for that Christmas day, and it has been helpful following along in the Vineyard USA “The Heart Has A Home” devotional through John.
But I’m just not in the Christmas spirit. I’m hoping that it’ll happen tonight when I put on my Christmas sweater. Or it might happen Saturday night as we sing Christmas carols while holding candles. It might happen after that service where my family goes home and gorges ourselves with melted cheese, steak, and other fondue festivities.
For whatever reason, I’m just in a weird place, and I’m not trying to feel something if it’s not there.
However, I did ask God for joy this week. Well, actually I asked God last week for it too, but it didn’t happen. I thought I’d try again this week, and it was actually the most joy that I had experienced in a while. I woke up Monday morning refreshed and exuberant from an eventful weekend celebrating one of my dear friend’s wedding. I got to stand up with him as he and his bride took part in the sacred covenant. It was incredible. The joy in that room was intoxicating. (Though, I was taking DayQuil and had a few glasses of wine. I wouldn’t recommend mixing; I kept wondering why I felt dizzy…)
Joy is a prominent theme throughout the Gospel of John (and the epistles). It’s not used as much as love or truth, but it definitely is a Johannine concept. John the Baptist proclaims joy when speaking of the promised Messiah (3:29). Joy comes communion with God and with fellow believers. This section in John 15 speaks about obedience to God producing a harvest of joy. (Interesting that obedience and joy are symbiotic in this passage) The first letter of John begins with the author saying that we write these things to you so that you might have fellowship with us and make our joy complete.
What does it mean to “make our joy complete?”
This phrase, χαρὰ πληρωθῇ, is used in John 15:11, and something similar is used in the prologue in 1st John. (1st John actually uses a perfect tense, but it’s the same kind of idea) Something about this Christian life means joy. In Christ, we can receive joy, have joy, taste joy, and partake in joy.
How many of us ask for joy?
I know that seems like a silly question, but if I understand joy correctly, it’s something that we can experience despite circumstances. Many have written and talked about the difference between joy and happiness. I don’t see the need to reinvent the wheel. But for me personally, as I am preparing for Christmas, as I’m going through the themes of Advent, I’m trying to feel the things that I’m supposed to feel. And if I’m not feeling that, how should I respond? I can go to the Scriptures, for sure, which I’ve been doing, but what if joy (and some of these other Advent themes) is like any other gift?
I’m not telling you to choose joy this Advent. I’m not telling you to ignore your pains. I’m not telling you to feel something that you’re not feeling. I’m simply saying that maybe we should ask God. And if it doesn’t happen immediately, we can keep asking God (like the persistent widow). Many of us give up on our prayers if they aren’t answered right then and there. And right now, I feel joy. I kept asking God for it, and for some odd reason, I have it this week.
We all want that joy, joy, joy, joy down in our hearts, right? What if we just asked?