An Advent Ache for Joy…

Do you remember the old song about joy?  We sang it in Vacation Bible School.

joy&painI’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart. Where?

Down in my heart, Down in my heart

I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.  Where?

Down in my heart to stay.

And I’m so happy, so very happy

I’ve got the love of Jesus in my heart.

And I’m so happy, so very happy,

I’ve got the love of Jesus in my heart.

At this point in my life, that sounds campy and shallow.  It’s not that it doesn’t contain truth…I know that it’s true in my head, but it doesn’t feel like that in my heart.   It feels like there is joy buried underneath the pain.  And that’s what the song says, right?

I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.  

It’s there, but it’s so far down in my heart right now that  you need to dig a mine to get there.  But then I heard a version of this song as recorded by Page CXVI in a minor key and it struck a chord in me.  For me, the song gave me the space to experience both the JOY and PAIN that are sharing space in my heart.  It sounds like a contradiction, but it’s possible to joyful and sorrowful at the same time.  “Even in laughter the heart may ache”, says Proverbs.

So what does that mean?  What does it mean to sing about joy in a minor key with a heart full of sorrow?  Does it mean that we are hypocritical?  Does it mean that we aren’t truly joyful?  Where does joy come from?

  • Job found joy in not denying the words of the Lord.

  • The Psalmist took joy in God’s protection, presence, law, worship, salvation, reign, redemption, love, and goodness.

  • In Proverbs, joy is found in wise sons, the down-fall of the wicked, peace-makers, justice and perfume. (yeah, I was surprised by that one too…)

  • Isaiah is joyous in the glory of God and His comfort and future redemption of Israel.

  • Jeremiah isn’t the poster child for joy, but found it in God’s Word, God’s blessing and again the future redemption of Israel.

  • In the gospels, it’s in receiving the seed of the gospel; finding the kingdom; seeing Jesus’ birth and power.  Jesus found joy in God’s mystery being hidden from the wise and revealed to us as children.  In John, Jesus tells us the obeying the Father’s commands will bring us joy.

  • In Acts, joy is experienced in following the filling of the Holy Spirit and the gentiles believing in God.

  • In Romans, joy is found in hope, the Holy Spirit and the church.

  • The Galatians lost their joy and were told to find it in the Holy Spirit.

  • The Philippians were encouraged to find it in their faith and unity.

  • James asks us to consider it pure joy when we are persecuted for our faith.

As I read that list, I realize that joy is mostly found outside of myself and most fully found in God.  This, again, is the theme of Advent…an ache for joy is an ache for God.

As Sara and I talked about joy this week, we realized that we are finding joy these days in helping others.  Meals taken to families in the hospital.  Gifts given to new mother’s without homes.  Planning a possible Christmas brunch at a restaurant with extended family who are mourning Silas’ death with us.  As I listen to the song, JOY, again, I am struck by the bridge where the singer/songwriter expands the joy/sorrow theme…

And I can’t understand

And I can’t pretend

That this will be all right in the end

So I’ll try my best and lift up my chest

To sing about…this…JOY…

I don’t understand it.  But I know this is true.  Joy isn’t something I will find in myself.  I can’t find it there.  Joy is only found outside myself in the person of Jesus who brings his joy and peace like a river.  To paraphrase Jude 1:24-25,

Only he is able to keep us from falling.  

Only he is able to present us into his glorious presence without fault.

Only he is able to do all that and give us great joy both now and forever.


5 thoughts on “An Advent Ache for Joy…

  1. I don’t know how to say that I “love” this arrangement. It’s haunting and beautiful in the same breath. I find the movement within the piece exquisite. It’s perfect.


    1. Shaana, I had gotten a copy of this disc weeks before, but I’ve been haunted (as you say, haunting and beautiful) by it ever since listening to it one afternoon as I was running in Lindenwood Cemetery. This song came on as I was running up the hill towards Silas’ grave. I felt like my life was momentarily a movie and yet it was sacred and holy and hushed at the same time. It captures so much of my life right now…


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