Last week I drove one of our boys to the airport. He was flying to Tucson to visit his grandparents. It was a foggy, overcast morning, which just happens to be my favorite flying weather. I just love that moment after takeoff when you break through the clouds and find yourself dazzled by the brilliance of the sun and blue sky. Every day is a blue-sky day, but some days the clouds obscure it.
What if joy is like that…always there but sometimes obscured? What if the pathway to experiencing more joy is not chasing after something new, but choosing to remove whatever obscures the joy that is already there?
Unlike happiness, joy isn’t dependent upon our circumstances. Joy is more permanent and substantial. Joy is based on a deep connection to our Creator that consistently feeds us at the level of our soul. So, why don’t many of us experience greater joy? What “clouds” obscure our experience of the joy that this season promises? There are many answers to that question, but I keep coming back to one: busyness.
Christmas is the season most associated with joy, and yet it is also one of the busiest seasons for many of us. Shopping, wrapping, decorating, baking, visiting, celebrating, card-writing, stamp-sticking, envelope-licking…and the list goes on. If joy is based on a deep connection to our Creator it’s no wonder we sometimes miss the joy of the season. We can’t develop a healthy, growing, intimate relationships with God or one another on the run.
I wonder how much more joy we would experience if we practiced the spiritual habits of slowing down, simplicity and solitude in these Advent weeks. I wonder how much more joy we would experience if we stopped chasing after joy and slowed down enough to be surprised by it in the seemingly mundane moments of the day, breathing deeply of the peace and presence of the One whose birth we celebrate. It might be worth slowing down enough to find out!
Want to see what it looks like to be surprised by joy? Check out this Joy to the World flash mob from a few years ago.
Jeff Marian is the Lead Pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN.