You will draw water with joy from the springs of salvation (Isaiah 12.4)
There’s an argument, that I often find to a be an unnecessary splitting of hairs regarding happiness and joy. On this, the Third Sunday of Advent, the traditional bible passages highlight joy as a constant refrain. So joy is the focusing concept for the week. Yet, innumerable preachers using this or similar texts will tell their congregations how happiness is a pointless chasing after momentary pleasure and that joy is a deep abiding sense of lasting satisfaction.
Sorry to use such a strong word.
I’m not a historian of words and their meanings. I have not written a dictionary. I could be all wrong.
But happiness is not a low-grade aspiration over which joy reigns supreme. So if something makes you happy, something just, something compassionate, something relationship-enhancing, something loving and kind. Don’t get all wrapped up in the happiness vs joy argument. The Epistle to the Philippians puts it this way, “anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise” (Phil 4.8).
Being joyful makes us happy. And happiness orients us toward the giver of all good gifts, the Source of joy.
Perhaps happiness and joy are parts of the joyous path. Happiness can get us started; joy is the destination. Either way, to accomplish either, there must be some sacrifice, suffering, and painful choices. Perhaps joy is the promise of happiness that is accepted on trust, a promise powerful enough to sustain through the greatest difficulty.
Carry some of the spring water.
As we close in on this third Sunday of Advent, how do you understand Isaiah’s metaphor? What is a story about “drawing water”, about your active expectation, your part in creating, doing, working “with joy”? What is the “spring of salvation” for you? Sure, the easy answer is Jesus, or God, or some churchy sounding answer. But is a spring is life-giving, sustaining, cleansing, and so much more. What thing, relationship, activity, or work in your life is the presence, the assurance, of that spring of salvation?
I bet thinking about it makes you happy.