First Thursday in Advent

Today’s Word: ‘Joy’ as in…  joy transcends human experience and is not dependent upon outward circumstances.

Joy Cowley is a writer and poet from Featherston, New Zealand. In her poem “Modern Magnificat” she aptly captures the of Mary’s song:

“My soul sings in gratitude. I’m dancing in the mystery of God. The light of the Holy One is within me and I am blessed, so truly blessed. This goes deeper than human thinking. I am filled with awe at Love whose only condition is to be received…It’s the Love that we are made for, the reason for our being. It fills our inmost heart space and brings to birth in us, the Holy One.”

Did you catch it? Both happiness and joy (no pun intended!) are palpable in Mary’s song. But there’s a difference between the two. Happiness tends to be achieved externally, while joy is something achieved internally.

We feel happy when we achieve an award or receive an honor. This happiness comes from the outside, from an external source. A friend gives us a gift and we’re delighted in the moment. We’re suddenly happy, we laugh, we cry, and then go through the ritual of catching ourselves wanting to hug one other, and resort to air high-fives. That’s happiness as a result of outward circumstances.

Joy, on the other hand, has an internal source; it comes from “somewhere way down deep.” We can experience joy in both positive and negative circumstances. We receive a text, an email, or phone call that a friend of ours has lost a parent. Our hearts are heavy, thoughts and prayers take us deeply into our friend’s grief. At the same time, we experience a depth of joy for that loved one’s life. We feel this joy for days.

Ponder these questions:

  • How have you experienced the difference between happiness and joy?
  • Can you think of a time when you experienced joy in the midst of challenge?

Simply put, happiness is mostly dependent upon outward circumstances and fades over time. The experience of joy transcends human experience and leads toward enduring gratitude.


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