Christian tradition holds the third Sunday of advent as the Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete of course comes from Latin, which means, ‘rejoice’, or for the sake of being more imperative, ‘experience joy’. As a young boy listening to the preacher, I said to myself, “Hmm… that ought to be easy!”
As a kid, joy was a rather simple concept. Joy was having a cone of my favorite ice cream, or going downstairs to find the toy I’ve been eyeing for weeks now sitting on our dining table as a reward for good grades. Joy was sitting inside the cinema to watch my heroes save the day. It was the bite of caramelized popcorn. It was seeing my red cape swoosh through the air as I jump from a flight of stairs. It was being given the honor, among a hundred nursery kids, to hold up the tip of the flag during the Monday ceremonies. It was travelling to the province and seeing the azul of the mountains turn to brown and green.
Joy was a reality around me. Then, I grew older. Then, it was gone.
As we grow older and as we start to place more burdens on our plates, it is without question that indeed we start moving out of Narnia. With more studies, and then more work, and then more responsibilities, we lose that which we once held so true – Joy. Oh how you only have to look upon yourselves to know that this is true! We have been snatched out of it. We have waken up to reality.
This, however, raises an interesting inquiry to me as I am pondering on these things. If we are so driven towards something, what are we driving to? What is it that we are pursuing? Beyond all the tedious work, beyond all the yoke of responsibilities, beyond this Sisyphean existence, what is it we are so desperately trying to touch? I would like to suggest that it is is actually the same thing – Joy.
As we wake up to reality, we start to desperately look for an echo of a melody which we once so knew. But oh my dear friends, we will search and we will chase, but I’m afraid we would certainly never find it, at least not through our labor. The existentialist philosopher John-Paul Sarte in his deathbed admitted to never finding the satisfaction he was searching for, even within the framework of his own philosophy. Perhaps no other person in this world ever wrote more passionately about ‘Joy’ than C.S. Lewis. Here’s what he has to say:
“Joy is the experience of an unsatisfied desire, which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction… and in our search for it amongst different things we would only be disappointed… for they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited…”
-Excerpts from “Surprised by Joy, and Weight of Glory”
This now leaves us to an impasse. If you feel robbed of joy right now, I suggest that you ask yourself and deal with the question. You have three options: First you could deny that there is a longing for joy within you. Second, you could go on trying to find it, as you have been doing in your life. Lastly, you could ask yourself, “If I find in my heart a desire which no other experience in this world can satisfy, is it possible that I was made for something more and beyond this world?”
I regained my joy where I did not expect to find it. It was like waking back into a long-awaited dream. It hit me like a pleasant surprise to taste it again. I found joy when I found myself a child once more in the hands of my God. When I surrendered myself to Jesus, it wasn’t because I was looking for “joy”. The Gospel just made so much sense and was just so irresistible, that’s why I said yes to him.
Little did I realize that, ultimately, this joy, which I was also in search for, would be found in the same Person. My Lord. My Savior. Finding myself in His hand, His glory, and His love, I find myself drowning in joy for from Him we find it. Remember the words of the angel during the first Christmas?
“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
– Luke 2: 10-11
Joy is not found in a thing; rather, you could only find it through the person of Jesus. If you are at a loss today, if life seems so uncertain, if your walls are crumbling, then let me encourage you to look to Him. Maybe He could be your savior too. Maybe the greatest joy of your life is waiting for you.
Looking back to my own childhood, I now realize why joy was so easy to find. Joy is not in the cone, nor in the greenery of the fields. It was not in the swooshing cape, nor in the holding of the flag. Rather, it is in the reality that in my childhood (probably in yours as well) we all lived off nothing other than grace!
We lived and we enjoyed with the truth that we were always held in hands we could depend on. In my case, it was my parents and the other people who made sure that I would be raised well. Yours could be a teacher or a grandparent. But today and every passing second from now on, we are held by our God!