“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.’”

Luke 2:10 (NLT)


This week, we celebrate the third Sunday of Advent and consider the subject of joy. Joy is one of those words that gets wrapped into other words. Its meaning ends up being tweaked, watered down, or lost altogether. In this case, joy’s true meaning is often hijacked because of its link to the word “happiness,” but happiness and joy are not the same thing.

Happiness is a fleeting, temporary emotion based on favorable circumstances. When something good happens, you feel happy and experience happiness. On your wedding day, when a baby is born, when you get the promotion you’ve been working so hard for–you are happy. Even the little things can bring you happiness: a close parking spot, a sunny day in the forecast, a compliment, a satisfying meal.

But this feeling doesn’t last much longer than it takes to park the car or clear the table. That doesn’t mean you didn’t experience happiness–you did–but you didn’t experience the same thing as joy. Chasing after happiness can lead to discontent; pursuing joy leads to fulfillment. Happiness may lead to celebrating in the moment, but joy leads to eternal rejoicing and worship.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! -Philippians 4:4

Joy, unlike happiness, is not tied to circumstances. True joy–joy from God–is experienced in full, regardless of life’s ups and downs. Nothing circumstantial or external, no person or thing can add to our joy or detract from it. Joy is a sense of well-being, knowing all is well between you and God, believing and trusting in his promises, and experiencing his presence.

Joy is not hidden in the darkness or extinguished in the storms of life. In fact, often that is when joy is its deepest and most sustaining. Unlike happiness, joy can be found in the worst of times. Not because of them, but in spite of them. When a relationship dissolves, joy reminds you of the closeness of Jesus. When you lose a loved one, joy is there, clothed in comfort and remembrance. When a promotion passes you by, joy is the voice that whispers, “you are good enough.”

When Jesus was born, the angel proclaimed, “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people…” or, as a favorite Christmas song says, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come. Let earth receive her king!” Jesus is the good news. He will cause great joy for all the people. He will cause great joy for you.

Receive your king and know true joy.


King Jesus,

Thank you for the complete joy you bring into my life. In seasons of celebration, as well as times of discontent or sadness, you offer me abundant joy. Come into my circumstances, Lord, and let me experience comfort and joy in your presence.


Cindy Western

Pastor of Discipleship Materials


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