Advent Week 4: "Joy"

Do not judge men by mere appearances; for the light laughter that bubbles on the lip often mantles over the depths of sadness, and the serious look may be the sober veil that covers a divine peace and joy.
- Edward Chapin

Do you ever judge a book by its cover? Or better yet, do you ever talk about books you've never read? A professor of literature at Paris University, Pierre Bayard, published a book "Comment Parler des Livres que l'on n'a pas Lus (How to Talk about Books that You Haven’t Read)" which caused quite a stir when it was released in February. Bayard's aim was to help alleviate the guilt that people felt about not reading a book completely, while acknowledging that there are many ways to interact with a book: skimming it, starting and not finishing, or looking at the index.

Joy can't always be discerned from outward appearances. You can't just skim a person's life and expect to know their joy. Joy is somewhere deep, somewhere real, somewhere that needs to be lived and needs to be alive in order to experience joy. It doesn't always reside at the surface. You can't talk about joy without having experienced and lived it. Such discussions invariably confuse joy with happiness, but to do so is to miss the point. By all appearances, the young pregnant girl and her husband forced to spend the night in the stable with the animals would be the last place you would look to find joy. And yet, there in the most lowly and awkward of circumstances, to Mary and Joseph the greatest joy the world has ever known was born, Jesus Christ. It is possible to know joy, even in the unhappiest of situations.

With Christmas just a few days away, let's not get fooled by what appears to be joy in the hustle and bustle around us, or in finding that perfect present or last minute shopping. The real joy at Christmas is Jesus Christ.

Sing, O Daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem! The LORD has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy. The LORD, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm. On that day they will say to Jerusalem, “Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”
- the prophet Zephaniah, speaking about the Messiah, the Saviour, to come (Zephaniah 3:14-17)