In an old Peanuts cartoon, Lucy asks Charlie Brown what his goal in life is. He pauses, thinks about the question for a few moments, and answers, “To be outrageously Happy.”
Cartoon creator Charles Shultz must have thought that was funny, that outrageous happiness was an outrageous expectation. Maybe God thinks the same thing. C.S. Lewis, in his book The Weight of Glory, had the opposite opinion:
“If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Infinite joy? Is that what God is offering us in this life? And is it true we want not too much, but too little? Advent/Christmas is a time of high expectations, but maybe the wrong ones. I am not going to get on a soap box and condemn Christmas commercialism, the idea of Christmas present lists or Santa Clause. It is what it is and I am at peace with all the store sales, bright lights (I have a set on my porch), and plastic reindeer on my neighbor’s roof. It’s all good, but I would hope we could expect more out of this season than toys and inflatable Frosty the snowmen.
God comes and offers us joy. Joy cannot be measured by toys, lights and pink flamingos (I am not sure how they are part of the nativity scene, but I saw them in a yard next to a Santa). Joy cannot be measured by these things because when the “season” is over, everything goes back in the box. But Joy is ever-present in the love that fills your heart when you know God is real and present in your life, and in the life of the people you care about. When I think about the characters in that first Christmas scene, Mary, Joseph and Jesus, they had nothing, except each other; how filled with joy they must have been.
Don’t settle for fleeting happiness this Advent/Christmas season, even if it is outrageous. Experience the joy that stays through every season, the joy of God that can illuminate any darkness and can never be extinguished.
Grace & Peace,