By Kathy Ferguson, RN, Parish Nurse
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit Romans 15:13
I feel like the word JOY goes hand-in-hand with Christmas. I decided to look up lyrics containing the word, joy. My search came up with nearly 43,000 lyrics, 21 artists, and 50 albums. That’s a lot of joy! Some of the lyrics were repeats—the same song sung by different people. The music came from hymns, Christian music, Country, Pop, Easy Listening, and Rap (yes, Rap). Here are just a few songs that contain the word JOY:
I’ve got that joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart! Down in my heart to stay. (Music and lyrics by George Willis Cooke)
Joyful all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With angelic host proclaim
Christ is born in Bethlehem (from Hark the Herald Angels Sing; Lyrics by Charles Wesley, altered by George Whitefield; Music: Felix Mendelssohn, adapted by William H. Cummings)
Sing we joyous all together Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la, la, la (from Deck the Halls, English lyrics by Thomas Oliphant)
Joy to the world, the Lord is come
Let earth receive her King (from Joy to the World; Music by Isaac Watts, Lyrics by Lowell Mason)
Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,
God of glory, Lord of love
(from Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee; Music by L. Beethoven, Lyrics by Henry van Dyke)
O tidings of comfort and joy
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy (from God Rest Ye, Merry Gentleman; traditional English carol)
Joy to the world
All the boys and girls now
Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea
Joy to you and me (from Joy to the World; Lyrics and music by Hoyt Axton)
Is joy the same thing as happiness? Compassion, a child advocacy ministry, describes the difference between joy and happiness:
The difference between joy and happiness lives in the mind and heart.
- Joy is a little word. Happiness is a bigger word.
- Joy is in the heart. Happiness is on the face.
- Joy is of the soul. Happiness is of the moment.
- Joy transcends. Happiness reacts.
- Joy embraces peace and contentment, waiting to be discovered.
- Joy runs deep and overflows, while happiness hugs hello.
- Joy is a practice and a behavior. It’s deliberate and intentional. Happiness comes and goes blithely along its way.
- Joy is profound and Scriptural. “Don’t worry, rejoice.” Happiness is a balm. “Don’t worry, be happy.”
- Joy is an inner feeling. Happiness is an outward expression.
- Joy endures hardship and trials and connects with meaning and purpose.
- A person pursues happiness but chooses joy.
In choosing joy, there is hope. With joy, hardship offers growth and opportunity. With joy, self-esteem and self-respect are indestructible.
What does all this joy have to do with health and wellness? When we have joy in our lives it results in health benefits. According to Sheri Mitschelen in an article titled, “Choose Joy! It’s Good for Your Health” she lists the following health benefits:
- promotes a healthier lifestyle
- boosts immune system
- fights stress and pain
- protects your heart
- supports longevity
You can bring JOY to your heart this season. Here are my thoughts on how you can create JOY in your life or with your family this Christmas:
- Attend a worship service together at Christmas. Did you know that you have eight different opportunities to attend worship on December 24, 25, and 26? Those are all in-person services at the church. There are also four live streams of services over the Christmas weekend. For more information, check out Bethel’s website: https://www.bethellutheran.com/event/christmas-schedule-joy-to-the-world/
- Bring back traditions. Many of us have traditions that we take part in over the Christmas season. It may have been that last year these traditions were put on hold because of COVID-19. Let’s start doing them again this year!
- Do some research into why you do the things you do at Christmas. As I have said before in these articles, I am over 90% Norwegian (I like to say 100%, but I want to be honest with you.). I find joy reading, “Keeping Christmas: Yuletide Traditions in Norway and the New Land” by Kathleen Stokker. It is chock-full of information about lutefisk, the Christmas feast, julebukking (a very strange practice that my parents took part in), nisse, Norwegian flags on Christmas trees, and more. I can’t tell you how many times I said, “Oh, that’s why we do that.”
- Give of yourself. Doing things for others brings joy to us and to them. Invite someone over for Christmas dinner if they will be alone. Donate toys, coats, or food for those in need. Ring the bells at the red kettles. Shovel someone’s driveway. Pay for someone’s order at the drive-through. It doesn’t have to be fancy or well-planned. Just do it.
- Read the Christmas story—really read it. This story never gets old, and it is still awe-inspiring for me after hearing it/reading it for over 60 years. Here is the sequence of readings to make it easy for you to find:
- The Angel Gabriel Visits Mary: The birth of Jesus foretold. Luke 1: 26-38.
- The Nativity of Jesus Christ: The birth of Jesus Christ. Luke 2: 1-7 and Matthew 1: 18-25
- Angels Visit the Shepherds: The shepherds and the angels. Luke 2:8-21
- The Three Wise Men: The visit of the Magi. Matthew 2:1-12
- Watch a Christmas movie or television show. It can be anything—a cartoon, a feature film, a Hallmark movie, a Christmas special, or a concert. Talk about it with your family when it is over—the message that came across, a special scene or dialogue that spoke to you, etc.… Every Advent I try to watch the 2006 movie, “The Nativity Story”. It wasn’t a big award winner and was not critically acclaimed. It tells the story of Jesus’s birth in a way that I could relate to. If you haven’t watched it, check it out this year (if you can find it).
- Pray and reflect. Take some quiet time by yourself or with family away from the hubbub to reflect on what Advent and Christmas mean. Pray—make a list of who you wish to pray for, what you are thankful for, and seek out the Lord’s guidance for your life. Amen.
Merry Christmas! Be joyful. Be well.
Compassion. (n.d.). What’s the difference between joy and happiness. Retrieved from: https://www.compassion.com/sponsor_a_child/difference-between-joy-and-happiness.htm
Mitschelen, S. (2020). Choose joy It’s good for your health. Retrieved from: https://crossroadsfamilycounselingcenter.com/choose-joy-its-good-for-your-health/