A Candle of Joy
By DANNY MINTON
The fourth candle of Advent (third to some) is the “Shepherd’s Candle” or the “Candle of Joy.” It, first of all, represents the joy that overcame the shepherds in the fields when angels appeared and told them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11 (NASB) The coming of a savior was a promise they had eagerly awaited for thousands of years. It must have been thrilling to be the first to know and see God’s son.
Christmastime is the one time of the year when nearly the entire world becomes reminded of Jesus, the son of God. No matter who you are or where you live, you’ll see signs of the Christ child. With the season comes, for a short time, moments of joy for families and friends. For one day, many will set aside their problems and struggles and become wrapped in the joys this time of year offers. The joy of giving and being with family infiltrates our lives as if, for this short time, we find ourselves without the worries of life.
True joy is a feeling that lives within us that cannot be affected by the circumstances around us. Happiness is a feeling that can come and go depending on the circumstances, influenced by what people say, the actions of others, and how we feel from day to day. We can go from day to day, being happy one day while falling into depression the next. Although being happy is a response to the joy that lives within us, joy is deeper than the outward feeling of happiness.
True joy is something that comes from God. Paul wrote to the Romans, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 (NASB) Later in his letter to the Galatians, he reminds us that the joy we feel is an outpouring of God’s spirit living within us. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.” Galatians 5:22-26 (NASB)
So, where do we seek this joy? This question reminds me of the story of a king whose life was one of despair, void of true joy. He called many of his wise men to try and help him out of his low state of mind, but everyone failed. Finally, one of the wise men decided that he needed the shirt of a “happy” man. So the call went out for all the king’s soldiers to scatter about the kingdom and obtain the shirt of a happy man. For weeks the soldiers searched when the call came to return to the king, who was very ill. One group of soldiers sat beside a wall to rest as they journeyed home. On the opposite side of the wall, they heard a farmer expressing his thankfulness. “All my fields have yielded their harvest; my children are doing well; I have a loving wife and am richly blessed. Today, I am a happy man!” With this, the soldiers quickly climbed the wall and began wrestling the man to the ground. “Someone grab his shirt!” came the call. But as they reached for his shirt, they discovered he didn’t have one. The moral of the story is that joy is not something found outwardly, but it dwells deep inside our inner being.
As we grow closer to God, we will find ourselves feeling a joy that the things of this life can’t offer us. Money, fame, success, and things in this life may give us a quick rush of happiness; they can be gone instantly; however, with the love of God that dwells deep within us, our love for others, and the joy of seeing and doing good remain with us. This experience of joy gives us freedom from those things that weigh us down.
I recently viewed a documentary about children whose home was a motel and whose lives centered around violence and poverty. They spoke of having nothing to which to look forward. When asked if they were happy, they could not answer. At the end of the program, their school took them on a trip to the beach. They excitedly exited the bus and ran across the sand and into the waves. The teacher said this was a time for them to get away from the life they lived and experience the joy of just being children, not thinking about the things that pulled them down.
That’s the definition of the joy that Jesus brings us. Through Him, we have that inner joy that keeps us going in a dark, depressing world. Only when we free our minds and thoughts of the darkness can we allow the joy of Jesus to give us light.
Danny Minton is an Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ
Joy is an attribute difficult to maintain in today’s world. Thank you for the reminder of the source of that joy.