Bringing Joy to the World

Joy to the world! With one line the rest of the carol pops in place, playing jubilantly in my head. Joy to the world … Let earth receive … Let every heart … Prepare … And heav’n and nature sing! I’ve busted out now singing it twice in my living room, glad it’s just me and the cats bearing witness. But it’s catchy and when I hear it I want to sing it. The song makes me feel robust and alive. Maybe it’s all the Christmas pageants and programs, but I hear trumpets and picture angels and tons of people united and happy. It’s triumphant and sure; something good has come and is coming, so get ready because it’s going to make everyone and everything wild with celebration! It’s hope without holds, promises of peace, wonders of love. It’s joy to the world!

While not every person or religion celebrates Christmas, I find it fascinating that almost everyone believes in and longs for a time, a place, an experience of increased joy. It seems that whether one’s beliefs are linked with an organized group or personally created, whether found in Nirvana or good Karma, a Messiah coming or returning, positive energy winning over negative, or from applied science and hard work in this life, the afterlife, or a reincarnated life (or maybe a combination of any of the above), a promise for greater joy is included in all. There seems to be a confident hope that if the right track can be tapped into, however “right” may be defined, then one day there will be more sweetness than sorrow, more grins than grief, more health than hazards, more life, more love, more joy.

To me this is a good thing. As tolerant of differences as we often are, there is still this endless pull, in subtle and not so subtle ways, to establish the “rightness” of our own tracks—mine over yours, ours over theirs—all in the name of bringing more quickly hoped-for joy. Unfortunately, when the focus is on differences instead of shared hopes, it tears apart families and friends, peoples and nations, leaving this promised joy far from reality.

And then December comes again with "Joy to the World" ringing loud and confident, and the differences fade in the bright lights of the redeeming season. We are reminded of the common hope we share. As voices unite in song and people join in selfless acts of giving, Christmas saves us, reminding us who we are and why we’re here. We experience personally what a “right” track really is. Through and beyond dogma or creed, background or belief, it’s about actively, tangibly bringing joy to the world, starting with those within our reach. Imagine how our world would change, one person at a time, if, with our beliefs beautifully in hand, we chose “right” based on what would make our neighbor smile or would relieve the stress of a family member. Imagine if a “right” track were all about highlighting the good in others rather than pointing out their lack. Imagine defining “right” by how we repeatedly show care and respect to those hurting on the fringes of our community, actively honoring the aged with our time, and loving those society deems “unlovable.” It would mean sweetness replacing sorrow, grins outshining grief, and “Merry Christmas” becoming a soul-breathed thank you every time it is spoken.

Joy to the World! Go ahead and sing it out loud. Better yet, live it even louder. The world is waiting for more joy, starting at our doorsteps.

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