There is that saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. That is exactly what I do with Christmas lights. Every year I think I should be able to just put the same icicle lights on the outside of the house and not have half of the string burnt out. Why don’t I just buy new ones each year when the shelves are newly stocked and full? Instead, I think all will be well, and end up scrambling to find them amidst the empty shelves a few weeks before Christmas.

So, you can understand how joyful I was when I walked into the third Home Depot and there was one box left, with my name on it. But wait, was I joyful or happy?

This third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday. In Latin, Gaudete means “rejoice.” We are supposed to be joyful.

I find that easier said than done sometimes. How about you? The challenge to “be” joyful arises when we confuse happiness with joy. Happiness comes and goes. It’s very dependent on situations, attitudes, expectations, and availability of Christmas lights.

Joy is a gift from God. It’s a response that is solidly planted in our souls that finds expression when we experience the Divine. It shouldn’t be work. Joyful isn’t something to “be”, it’s something to recognize and allow. It’s a gift to accept.

Joy is God’s fingerprint in our everyday lives. When we feel that joy bubble up from deep within, we can be assured that God is near. The mysterious part of it all is that you can feel joy even when you aren’t happy. Even in very challenging times, joy can sneak in. Joy doesn’t make a grand entrance, often it slips in very unexpectedly.

For me, joy often slips in when I quiet the voices of self-pity, selfishness, and discontent and am focused on the good around me. When I’m surrendered to what is, with acceptance and gratitude, I am more able to recognize the presence of God. I’m more apt to feel that joy lump in my throat.

I love the picture of Mary and Elizabeth that is above. The joy on their faces and in their body language is infectious. And think what challenges Mary was facing, yet the joy is undeniable. The source of that joy was the baby in her womb. The source of our joy is that same baby.

Let joy bubble up in you this week. Open that gift that lies within you. No matter what your circumstances, let God surprise you with joy.

I’m off to Home Depot to return that box of lights. The original string mysteriously came back on. Insane.


Joan Carey, Firstfruits executive director, is an author and speaker with a passion for helping women grow in their relationships with God. Her Ponder This book contains a series of modern day parables sure to get you thinking about and seeing our extraordinary God in our ordinary experiences. Joan invites you to use resources on this website for daily reflection in your journey to grow in God's loving care for you.
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