A Time of Joy
Third Sunday Reflection
When I was a little girl, there was a song that we used to sing called “Down in my Heart.” One of the verses says: “I got the joy of Jesus down in my heart, down in my heart, down in my heart, down in my heart to stay.” Although at the time I didn’t even know what the word joy meant, I knew that it was something I wanted.
Of the four themes of Advent, it is joy that is in my opinion one of the hardest to reach. Joy is often substituted for the word happy, however, joy goes much deeper than happiness. Joy is an emotion with a lasting value. According to Merriam-Webster, Joy is defined as: “a feeling of great happiness; a source or cause of great happiness; success in doing, finding, or getting something.”
Depending on which source you use, there are some 150 references to joy in scripture. One scripture where we see joy is when Jesus tells three parables — of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the loving father — all stories about receiving joy over finding that which is lost (Luke 15).
It is the joy of Christ coming to us that we celebrate now. We hear the sound of joy in Luke 1:14, 44, Matthew 2:1, and in the angel's announcement of “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” in Luke 2:10.
The United Methodist Women mission study of 2010-2011 was titled Joy to the World, which is also the name of a favorite Christmas hymn. It was written by Dana Robert, professor of World Christianity and History of Mission at Boston University School of Theology.
In her introduction to the study, Dr. Robert writes: “’Joy to the World’ is a shout of celebration, penned by the great hymn writer Isaac Watts in 1819. Although it is a beloved Christmas carol, its message does not stop at Christmas Day. Its deeper message is not about the birth of a baby, but about fundamental changes brought into the world by the coming of Jesus Christ. Jesus came to bring ‘abundant life’ in place of human limitations, brokenness and death (John 10:10) … ”
I ask you today: What do you have to be joyful about? Is it a personal joy, or one that is outside of yourself? Perhaps if, as the song says, we were to really look down into our hearts for even a small tickle of joy and then pull it out, we will feel God’s love well beyond the seasons of Advent and Christ.
Marva Usher-Kerr is the executive secretary of membership and leadership outreach for United Methodist Women