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Joy to the world!

By Father Charles Irvin

Joy to the world!

The difference between happiness and true joy

"Joy to the world!” That exuberant cry bursts out of our hearts when we begin to sing our famous Christmas carol. There is a certain vitality in the way we sing it, particularly the way we begin that carol in exultant elation. Our whole being gets caught up in it; our feelings and emotions jump up and join in as we sing out “Joy to the world!”

Contrast this, if you will, with the best our darkened world can offer. It tenders us mere moments of intoxication, a few minutes of feeling giddy, a frenzied climax to our moments of pleasure. Invariably those moments are followed by deflation and depression as the old darkness settles in on us once more. Getting high has no lasting quality to it, whereas joy is deep and lasting – something unexpected that changes lifetimes. At Christmas, we experience and re-experience God’s sudden advent in our lives, bringing with him a new reality in our relationship with him; a new bonding with him that can last forever if we are filled with good will and decide to live out his gift in our lives.

Imagine for a moment being with a couple who have been childless – a couple who thought they would never have a child and now have a newborn. The father will now be a father forever. Who he is will be forever changed. From now on, the mother will forever be a mother. However much we may want to share their joy, we will never fully experience what they have experienced. Their joy is fundamental – so fundamental that it expresses a change in who they are at the core of their being.

The angels at Bethlehem announced they were giving us “glad tidings of great joy.” Their news was a message of deep and lasting joy, not one of fleeting happiness or momentary elation. Good feelings of happiness may come and go. Our “highs” can quickly leave us. The world will easily crush our feelings. Joy, however, is deep and abiding. Our joy rests in God’s profound and everlasting gift of himself to us in his boundless love for us.

May God’s peace be your joy, both now and forever.