I’ve got that joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart…” As a child I sang those words many times in my Sunday School department as well as at a few revival meetings. I don’t remember the last time I heard it. Maybe it is because it is such a simple song that describes such a simple emotion. Joy is not one of those complicated emotions like depression or love. It is not one of those emotions we can dredge up and intellectualize about on the spur of the moment. It just happens. It is a deep, reflexive, spontaneous response to something external. Joy comes to us as a gift, not the kind you unwrap on Christmas morning, but as a response to something that happens to us.
Earlier this year I received an ominous message on my answering machine from a law officer stating that a vehicle that I owned had been involved in an accident. For what seemed like an eternity but was really only a short time, I could not get any information. When I finally was able to reach someone and find out that the accident had occurred in a parking lot with no one in the car, I was not only relieved but joyful for the gift of safety for my family.
The people of Israel walked in darkness. They were beset by oppression and violence. The promise of the psalms of their forefathers and foremothers was a distant memory. Yet here in tiny Bethlehem there was to be an intrusion in the natural order of things. God was breaking into history. What was the response? Angels sang. Shepherds danced.
In a few weeks when the strains of “Joy to the World” are a fading memory, remember that real joy, the kind that makes the trees rustle and the fields and crops burst forth with praise is a result of the story of what God does. There is good news of great joy for all people. Today is born a Savior, Christ the Lord!