Saturday, December 26, 2015


"Joy,” a new film released on Christmas day, features a great actor playing the lead, “Mangano,” and a potentially great story. However, it’s been panned as “something awful” by Todd VanDerWerff, critic writing at Vox. This "Joy" brought incredible disappointment, at least for Todd.

“Joy” is a big release. My neighborhood theater has five showings today, December 26, 2015. But if Todd is on target, the film is a flop.

No wonder. We all want joy. We experience joy in some measure. Joy, however, is so difficult to depict—so difficult! Maybe that's why the film is such a mess, per Todd's review.

My wife picked “joy” as the theme of our Christmas letter. We listed our sources of joy during 2015. We got joy:

·         From where we live (in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S.A.  “From the mountains to the Pacific.”
·         From recognition of fifty years of ordination to the Christian ministry (Darrell’s source of joy.)
·         From hearing classical and sacred music (Lucy’s source, especially, but Darrell’s too.)
·         From family time with adult children and kids.
·         From decent physical health relative to what we might expect at our ages.

Good list, you might think. But does this list get at the root source of joy? Where / how can I find JOY? So central in human life. Of such great value.

So, I looked back through my library of Christian ethics books seeking an answer. Not a word in them about the joy of a moral life. Okay, ethicists aren’t into JOY. But what about spiritual writers?

I checked in with The Path of Tranquility, the book on spiritual life by the Dalai Lama. Maybe this global hero of spirituality pinpoints the source of joy. No such luck. I found only one daily entry of 365 that mentions the word “joy.” I was disappointed.

Then I remembered C. S. Lewis, the English literary scholar and writer. In Surprised by Joy, Lewis seems to take us to his deep foundation for a life of joy. His  conversion as an adult to the eternal Christ is the surprise that brings him JOY. Okay, that's a start.

So what about a sacred scripture—what would that say about joy? I like the story of the Wise Men of the East from the Biblical book of Matthew. In verse 10 of Matthew, Chapter 2, the writer presents a trio of astronomers following a guiding star, thinking it will lead them to the “King of the Jews.”

One night the star stops. They think, “We’ve found this ruler!” But, surprisingly, the star has stopped over a stable. They enter and find a young mother and a newborn child. “This is the ruler?” they might have asked? Surely they were expecting a palace, a display of wealth, an assembly of admirers. Yet, since the star designated this mother and child as the end of their search, they unload packs of precious gifts from their camels and give them to the child. They give treasure and, Matthew writes, they find JOY.

This is where spirituality and morality is going today. Back to that Source of Joy. Other joys experienced in normal affairs of human life are derivatives.

Life is a grand experiment. After you try this source of joy for yourself, see what you think. I hope you’ll be surprised by JOY, like Lewis and the Wise Men. I’m pretty sure you won’t be disappointed like Joy Mangano, the hapless character in the film “Joy”.


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