Gratitude for the gift of joy permeates our worship on the third Sunday of Advent. The call of the Scriptures is to return to the source of joy (Isaiah 12:3); to be "always joyful in the Lord" (Philippians 4:4).
Joy differs profoundly from mere happiness. External circumstances affect happiness but cannot touch joy, which is a gift cherished deep within the spirit. In fact, joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit - evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5:22).
Happiness is conditional upon certain external realities being present - even the weather. Not so with joy; for the faithful people of God can "rejoice in tribulations" (Romans 5:3). Because of the depth of joy, effected within by the Holy Spirit, the martyrs went with serenity to torture and death rather than renounce Christ. Beset with many privations, afflictions and hardships, the people of God continue to trust Him and they persevere in the Faith despite "the troubles which are soon over" (II Corinthians 4:17).
The joy of God's people is rooted in their love for Him, their unshakable confidence in Him. Yes, their confidence in God is immovable as a mountain (Psalm 125:1). And they that hope in the Lord daily renew their strength. They soar like eagles. They run and do not tire. They walk and do not faint (see Isaiah 40:31). The faithful are built upon rock (Matthew 7:24-25).
When we come to know the Lord, He invites us to trust Him, absolutely and unquestioningly, to abandon ourselves into His hands, because He is our Loving Father. This is the relationship Jesus gives us with His Father and our Father (John 20:17) by letting us share His Spirit (I John 4:13).
Jesus unites us with Himself by means of the Holy Spirit - the Spirit of the Infinite Love of the Father and the Son, the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in us and will raise us in our turn (Romans 8:11).
The Spirit of Joy gives us the perspective of knowing that God works all things to our good (Romans 8:28) and so, in every circumstance, we can rest our hope entirely on God. This is the glorious joy that cannot be described (I Peter 1:8).