Joy and happiness are both emotions where a person has feelings of contentment or satisfaction. But both of these feelings differ from one another. Happiness is an emotion in which feelings ranging from contentment and satisfaction to bliss and intense pleasure. Happiness is caused by earthly experiences and material objects and is often expressed by outward elation. It is often temporary and based on outward circumstances.
Joy is a stronger, less common feeling than happiness. Witnessing or achieving personal sacrifice frequently triggers this emotion or feeling spiritually connected to a god or people. It is caused by spiritual experiences, caring for others, gratitude and thankfulness. Joy is felt as inward peace and contentment. It is lasting and based on inward circumstances. ( definitions from Diffen website)
For the past month we have been hearing and singing about Joy. The familiar passage in the book of Luke chapter 2 tells us that ordinary shepherds experienced the most incredibly terrifying experience that somehow turned into great joy.
8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep.9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified,10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God …….16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger.17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished,… 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them. Luke 2:8-20 (NLT)
During the time of Jesus, shepherds in general were near the bottom of the social status. They were ceremonially, physically and spiritually unclean. Only during King David’s reign did they enjoy a higher recognition. Even though sheep were needed for sacrifices, food and clothing, it was a dirty job. They couldn’t leave the fields to attend the Tabernacle or participate in many of the feasts. So why did the birth announcement of the long awaited Messiah come first to a group of poor Shepherds?
The shepherds anxiously went to find this newborn King as the angels had instructed. They were not afraid to approach Him small and in such humble circumstances. Baby Jesus was the One who would shepherd our souls as David had written in Psalm 23. “Do not be afraid” the angels proclaimed, “this is good news for all people”. Messiah had come! They saw the glory of the Lord but could not understand that this child would one day be the final sacrificial Lamb for all our sin.
16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17 (NLT)
The rich and powerful were not looking for Messiah and liked things the way they were. Most of us are like shepherds, ordinary working folks. They didn’t get cleaned up or go to the Temple first….they came just as they were. We too can experience a deep, personal and lasting inward peace and contentment in our soul by approaching a holy God because of what Jesus did for us. Come to Him just as you are and find His JOY.
Joy to the world! The Lord is come: Let earth receive her King:
Let every heart prepare Him room and heaven and nature sing.
PS – If anyone has any questions or comments, email me and I would love to get back to you personally. I wish you all a happy, healthy and joyful New Year!