Tuesday, December 1st, 2009...12:29 pm

The Scandal of Joy to the World

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Over this past Thanksgiving weekend I was looking through the most recent issue of Christianity Today. On their ‘Where We Stand’ page the editors quote G. K. Chesterton when he claimed that a person is fully human when “joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial.” The quote continues: “Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive frame of mind; praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul. Pessimism is at best an emotional half-holiday. Joy is the uproarious labor by which all things live.”

The editors rightly note in that same article, “The gospel remains a scandal, indeed, because it announces joy right when everything is falling apart, just when today’s experts offer ‘sober assessments of the current situation,’ and in their euphoric moments can only say they remain ‘cautiously optimistic.'”

The scandal of ‘Joy to the World’ imbedded in the first Christmas story lifts our heads above the waterline of day to day stress and survival to catch a breath of something other-worldish. It’s not joy ‘from’ the world, but joy ‘to’ the world. Neither is this a carrot-at-the-end-of-the-stick hope designed to frustrate people with melacholic personalities or tendencies toward depression. Depression is actually a rather complex issue. Its roots can be biochemical and physiological as well as spiritual and psychological.

But this invasion of joy ‘to’ the world crashes in on whatever condition we may find ourselves in. It defies resignation, despair, grief, pain. and emotional darkness because it’s more than a prescription, it’s a person. Jesus emodies in himself the message that God loves us, forgives us and frees us. The command to ‘rejoice’ is the call to deliberately give place to joy — that is, give place to Jesus’ life as a faith choice. Feelings follow choices, and this choice roots us in something heavenly, not earthly. On the day of Pentecost we are told that God’s Spirit came from ‘heaven’ to the ‘house.’ (Acts 2: 2). Joy ‘to’ the world. Joy unattached to the world. Joy not from the world. Joy from heaven, in a person — and for us!

So with God’s help let’s not focus on things earth-bound to prop up our emotions this season. Let’s dare to give place to the scandal of Jesus-givenĀ  joy.

“Joy to the world, the Lord HAS come.”

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