“In your presence, there is the fullness of joy.” –Psalm 16:11
On my recent trip to Yunnan, my textbook Chinese hit a challenge of monumental proportions: perhaps because of its relative foreign-ness to China and Chinese language and culture, Christianity in China (not unlike Christianity in the U.S.) has its own vocabulary, and I was scribbling down characters each time we stepped foot into a new sanctuary. One character that I couldn’t find in my dictionary was the character for joy, and so since Thanksgiving I’ve been really contemplating what it means to experience joy and experience it to the fullest.
As I’ve been reflecting on the meaning of Christmas, I’ve been struck by how the media waters down the birth of Christ, the light of the world, to the cliche, “home for the holidays,” and the statement that “Christmas is really about family.” Now I love being with my family on Christmas, but if I were to offer a simple soundbyte take to those who wonder what Christmas is really about, I would say peace, hope, or joy.
Out of all three, joy seems to be this overpowering, awe-inspiring emotion which I associate uniquely with God’s presence. As I was reflecting on a devotional regarding presence the other evening, I noted that presence is too often equated with passivity. But to truly be present, is to be active, to be counted, to be attentive to what is going on around oneself. And so, while we are often quick to ask why God is not present with us in times of trouble, it is we who are often not being present to God. Through being present to God, however, we experience God’s presence in everything and everyone, which is that fullness of joy the psalm above speaks of. I’m so inspired by joy this season, that I’m going to continue to blog about it for a couple days (hence the Part 1). I hope you’ll journey with me and reflect on how you experience joy in your life.