DURING the holiday season we hear a lot about Christmas joy. All this joy seems focused on one day, though, and when the day is passed, there can be a feeling that the joy is over too. It's almost as though we all gear up to be especially happy on Christmas. Then the next day we go back to the old way of thinking about ourselves and those we love. There is, however, a permanent joy that each of us already has -- an inner light that doesn't leave us even when we face disappointments or challenges. It grows in our lives as our knowledge of God and of our unbreakable relationship to Him increases. This knowledge gives us a completely different basis for thinking and for living.
If we look at our lives in material terms, the suggestion that we are mortals living out a life that is only momentarily satisfying can seem quite powerful. Joy seems elusive or random.
This is, however, not what Christ Jesus taught. In fact, his whole life stands as a rejection of the belief that man is material. Spiritual qualities such as joy, peace, intelligence, love, truth, are the very substance of our nature, and we can never lose them.
Christ Jesus' teachings give a very clear sense of permanent joy that isn't subject to human conditions but comes from a certainty of God's presence. Not long before his crucifixion, he told his followers that the outcome of his mission would ultimately give them a joy they could never lose. He said to them, ``And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.''
The joy the Master was speaking of comes from a deep trust in God's government of the universe. And we obtain it through Christ, through accepting the true idea of God and man. Such acceptance includes prayer that affirms our spirituality and our inseparability from our divine Father. Seeing ourselves from this standpoint enables us to look for God's guidance and love in each day, or even in each hour.
But perhaps the most important thing we can do is to resolve to live in accord with our spirituality -- with love, with patience, with truth -- and to try to approach all the people we meet within this spiritual frame of reference. As Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, explains in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, ``Spiritual living and blessedness are the only evidences, by which we can recognize true existence and feel the unspeakable peace which comes from an all-absorbing spiritual love.''
Basing our lives on this fact means that each day we can expect to feel joy because it is an inherent part of our being. This does not mean that we never have problems or that we foolishly ignore them. Nor does it necessarily mean that we won't have to work at being joyful. But as we become more certain of God's care for us and more accustomed to being joyful, we will begin to see our challenges less as burdens and more as opportunities to prove that we really are spiritual and good.
If we are willing to claim our actual spirituality and to live in accord with it, we will find some surprising benefits. These come in the form of greater stability when we are under stress, the ability to withstand temptation or depression, and the capacity to see that good isn't limited to certain persons or things -- that it really does come from God.
Such inner joy is a vital element in our efforts to overcome whatever problems we face because it reminds us that God, active, knowable Love -- our Father -- is with us. And that the joy He gives is with us not just briefly at Christmas, but every day.