I can’t find my joy this year – my JOY coffee mug that is. Each year I get out my red coffee mug with the word “JOY” written on it, with the “O” as a Christmas wreath. My JOY coffee mug was given to me several years ago by a woman named Joy, because she had heard that my nickname around the church office was “Bah-Humbug.” I don’t think I was really that grouchy, but I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by all of the extra work that comes with pastoring a church during Advent and Christmas. So, Joy gave me a JOY coffee mug that I have used for about 20 years since then.

This year, I seem to have misplaced my JOY coffee mug.

It is easy to misplace JOY during this season. Most of us feel the STRESS of the season. In particular, I think we put way too much pressure on ourselves to have a perfect Christmas, a Christmas which meets our unrealistic expectation from some Christmas in our past. In truth, Christmas is always messy. That first Christmas certainly was messy, with Mary and Joseph not even finding a room at the inn. Yet God worked through that imperfect Christmas to bring the Christ Child into our world. Maybe we all need to go easy with our expectations, lighten up a bit, and stop trying to have a perfect Christmas. Because the STRESS of all that can cause us to misplace our JOY.

We also misplace our JOY with a faulty pursuit of HAPPINESS. Happiness is fleeting, dependent upon the happenings of our life. JOY is different. JOY is a result of receiving the gift of God’s love and grace. Paul reminds the Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord always, I say again Rejoice. The Lord is near, so do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Such JOY is not about our pursuit of happiness, it is based upon our trust in God to provide for us. It is about finding JOY in spite of the circumstances of our life.

I may not find my JOY coffee mug this year, but I pray that all of us will find the JOY of the Lord this season.

from Bishop Michael J. Coyner