Joy to the world
The Lord is come
So begins one of the most famous Christmas carols of all time. But what does it mean when we talk about Christmas as a time for joy?
As the semester has progressed, I’ve sensed a bit of Gloom around campus that combines academic stress, exhaustion and homesickness. While I’m certainly not immune to Gloom, I draw on my college experience to propose an antidote: joy.
First things first: joy is not the same thing as happiness, optimism or positivity. I know many people going through hard times this Christmas season, and I’m not suggesting we just need to “get over it” or pretend we’re happy if we’re not. Happiness depends on circumstances; joy does not. Joy comes from faith: it’s the assurance that God holds our lives together. If we trust in God’s salvation, we look forward to an eternity of beauty, happiness and wonder. Despite the Gloom that surrounds us, joy brings us the light of hope, gratitude and patience. Joy sees the bigger picture—or at least trusts that God sees the bigger picture when we can’t.
Of course, joy is much easier to write about than to practice. We struggle to keep the big picture in mind when we must attend to a million tiny details during these last two weeks of the semester. However, I make two suggestions.
We can spend a little less time listing our stressors and a little more time noting our blessings. Taking a break from the incessant, “I’m stressed about this, what are you stressed about?” conversation is healthy. While commiserating and verbalizing our emotions can be helpful at times, focusing on God’s gifts is healthy and life-giving.
We can laugh more; play more; be silly more. Life is serious enough already. If you love your light-up Christmas sweater, wear it proudly! If you want to play tag on Kerrwood Lawn, invite friends! If you come across a joke that makes you laugh, repeat it in the DC. Laughter heals many a bad day and gives us all a break from stress and worry.
I hope this short reminder of joy will encourage us in these next two weeks. Christmas will bring a break from the stress and workload—but why not fill our time in this world of Westmont with joy?