This Sunday is the Third Sunday of Advent and the theme is “Joy.” In a season of somber preparing to experience the birth of the Divine in anew into our lives, we come to a Sunday of rejoicing called in Latin “Gaudete Sunday.” A passage from the assigned text for this Sunday from Isaiah 35:10 says, “And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”
This passage has become the words of a wonderful praise chorus. It’s often misunderstood however to believe that when it says “sorrow and sighing shall flee away,” that includes you will always be happy. And that is not true. Those words are preceded by “they shall obtain joy and gladness.” The implication is when we return to walking in relationship with the Divine, as God has always desired; it brings eternal joy; but it does not mean that will bring continuing happiness.
Joy and happiness are wonderful feelings to experience, and while similar, they are very different. Joy is more consistent and is cultivated internally. It comes when you make peace with who you are, why you are and how you are in your relationship with God. Whereas, happiness tends to be externally triggered and is based on other people, things, places, thoughts and events.
I communicated with a high school classmate this week to convey my condolences on the death of her mother. This week was her birthday. This devout woman of faith reminded me that though her birthday will not be happy this year, the joy she has, having experienced a new birth in Christ, will still be present. That is as good of a life example of the difference between joy and happiness I’ve come across.
So, join us for worship at Covenant this Gaudete Sunday as we explore more about “Preparing for Joy” from Isaiah 35:1-10 and Matthew 11-2-11.