“I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:11
Our Easter celebration at Mt. Horeb this year was truly triumphant. As the fragrance of lilies filled the air, our young people lead the congregational worship in a brass quartet, a full complement of acolytes led a gospel processional, the choir sang gloriously, the organ rang out in full fervor, the congregation praised and and prayed (and ate!), and Pastor Hill delivered an Easter Message about living as Easter people and having hope amidst fear. I can’t remember a day that was a more glorious celebration of the joy of Christ’s resurrection.
What if we lived Easter joy every day?
When the worship was over, and all the Easter greetings had faded, the joy of the day still lingered in my heart. Even though Easter Sunday was a bit gloomy this year, no amount of clouds or rain could have brought me down, as I spent the afternoon enjoying the memory of a wonderful Easter morning. As Kris and I enjoyed a bit of quiet after the hubbub of the busy season, I began to ponder this lingering feeling of joy. I asked myself, “What if we lived Easter joy every day?”
I was probably an adolescent before I really started to understand what the word “joy” really meant. As a child, I always equated it with happiness. And I guess, as a child, when your life is (mostly) carefree, joy and happiness can be intermingled in simply enjoying the little things in life. As we grow, however, we begin to experience hardships and unhappiness when things don’t always go the way we’d hoped. As I’ve aged and lived through more ups and downs of life, I’ve learned that even when I’m unhappy, or going through a difficult time, I can still have joy – and that it’s a gift from God.
Jesus told his disciples, as he was heading toward the cross, that if they abide in him, as a branch abides in the vine, that they will be connected to his lifeblood, and his joy will be theirs. In the fifteenth chapter of John, Jesus offers to his disciples the opportunity for their joy to be complete, in him. He gives them this news of great joy just before he proceeds onward toward the cross. He knows that unhappy, even horrifying, days are ahead for them all. Nonetheless, in the face of all this, our Lord offers his disciples joy.
The joy of knowing the resurrected Christ is not about avoiding difficult times. It’s not about shying away from trials, or about never having doubts. Christian joy is about the underlying faith that through Christ, the Spirit of God goes with us through it all, and that nothing this world may throw at us can ever take away the eternal gift he has given us. As Pastor Hill emphasized in his Easter Message, the truth of the Empty Tomb is not a one-day deal, but it is an ongoing reality whose gift is joy and salvation for all God’s children, now and forever.
I pray that for this 50-day season of Easter, you will allow Easter joy to stay with you and shine through you, wherever you go.