It would be a lie if I told you that this holiday season has been joyous for me. Rather the opposite, it's been a daily challenge to seek out and find my joy. You can only imagine my relief than, when sitting in the movie theater with my son an ad came across the screen telling me where I can go to find my joy...Walgreens. That's right friends, stock up on joy at Walgreens. Later in the ad, it shows that the joy you can stock up on is ice, soda, chips and other snack foods. Hmmm...so gorging myself on junk food will help me find my joy? That's all well and good until I have a Pepsi and Dorito induced heart attack and my bum is the size of Santa's workshop. Yup...that translates into joy for me. Joy at Walgreens. Great.
As ridiculous as the ad obviously is, it made me think. For Walgreens to use such a slogan as "Find your Joy at Walgreens" they must be tapping into what I've personally experienced, a joy deficiency this time of year.
Let's be honest with ourselves, for many, the holiday's represent a very challenging time of year. Everyone desires to be filled with abundant joy...just bubbling over with happiness. But sometimes that doesn't happen for everyone. It's not that we're all channeling our inner Scrooge's or Grinches, it's just that we're bogged down with the sorrow of life. There are many who have lost jobs this year, lost homes, lost family members and friends, lost health, lost love, lost spouses, lost hope and thus, lost joy. It's hard to be joyous when your heart is grieving loss. It's hard to be around others who are joyous when your own heart is aching. It's hard to find joy in the suffering.
I look around my own life and see the suffering in the faces of those I love. I see a mother who has lost two children to miscarriage. I see an amazing guy whose engagement was called off. I hear the tears of a very loving woman whose marriage has ended. I see a couple who will have to move far from their friends and family in order to keep a job. There are several who have lost their jobs and financial support for their family. There is someone who has lost health and faces cancer. There are five women, myself included, who have lost hope of having children or more children as calendar days tick by with no pregnancy in sight. I see a woman in her 20s who has just undergone a full hysterectomy but who desperately wanted to have her own babies. I hear the longing from single friends for comfort and love. I hear the cries of parents who have lost children in the war. I hear the cries of children who have lost parents. I see the aching hearts that long to be with the ones they love, but can't. There is suffering and that suffering becomes so pronounced when surrounded by such a packaged month of joy.
So where do the hurting and the suffering go this time of year to find joy?
Maybe 'Comfort and Joy' can be found in going home for the holidays and embracing the ones who are still with us. Maybe it's giving to others, serving others, serving through the pain. Maybe joy can be found in the brush of snowflakes on your cheeks, in the warmth of a fire, in the grasp of a long tight hug, in the laughter of the children around you.
This season is really about a glimmer, a sparkling star of hope, Jesus, who came to live with us, to suffer as we suffer. God chose to be here with us and to give us peace, hope and joy. In the darkness, there is light. Though I suffer, though I hurt, though I can't seem to make my pain go away no matter how hard I pray or smile or sing, I know I'm not alone. I know that Christ came to suffer with me, beside me. I know there is hope in the suffering because I know that suffering is not all there is. I can look in the face of my son and see hope. I can feel the kiss of God as I'm held so tenderly and comforted so sweetly.
We're not alone and there is hope. Christmas is about that hope that a better day is coming. Not only will we get through our current suffering and glow in future joy, but one day, we will live with God where there is no suffering. One day our hearts will be made whole again, our tears wiped away and we will know a joy that has no words.
This Christmas, I cannot will my grandma back to life, but I can thank God for last Christmas and all the Christmas' before that. This Christmas I will not hold a baby in my arms, but I can thank God for the baby who I once held, the toddler I hold now and the hope of the babies I will hold again. This Christmas, I can choose to see more in this holiday than the brisk cold of winter, I can see the warm hearth of the Lord, our Lord, who came to us.
Joy, real joy, can't be found at Walgreens. Real joy can't be found in a package or at a store. You can't buy it, sell it or ship it. Real joy comes in the knowing that Christ comes for us, to be with us, to live with us, to love us, to give us peace and hope. Real joy comes in knowing that after the crucifixtion, comes the resurrection. Real joy comes in knowing there is another day.
Seek out your joy in the arms of God. Find your Comforter in your midst.
And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth
And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. (10) And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. (11) For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (12) And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
I wish all of us great Tidings of Comfort and Joy. And when you find it, sing JOY to the world and "repeat, repeat, the sounding joy!"
Where have you found your JOY?