Luke 15:10, “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Joy has many faces. The new parents celebrate the birth of their first child—indeed, their second and third. The joy on a lover’s face when a man asks her to marry him. The joy on a child’s face when they’re brought into a candy store. The joy on your face when you laugh at a comedic movie or play in a theatre. Even the simplest of all joys when a friend gives a gift to another friend for Christmas. We all know what joy looks like; it is arguably one of the greatest emotions we experience. Joy can look like a smile stretching from ear to ear, the tears of joy when a woman is proposed to by the man she loves, and the joy when stress is finally relieved.
Joy has no limits. We experience joy in various ways in our lives and we seek to experience joys with our friends and family. We have this inner desire to acquire joy—or happiness. I contend that there is a significant difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is based on our circumstances and is always changing. I am happy when I get fries and a burger in my stomach, but then that happiness passes when I get hungry again. I am happy when I purchase the latest video game, but that happiness passes as I play that game religiously for several weeks and need a new game to play. Joy, on the other hand, is something entirely different. Unlike happiness, joy is everlasting. When I remember all the photography trips I went on with my father, I experience joy again. When I remember a video game I’ve played in the past, however, I remember how enjoyable it was, but it doesn’t bring me any joy.
The Greek words for rejoice and joy are χαίρω (chairo) and χαρά (chara) respectively. Chara derives from chairo. When we rejoice, what are we doing? It is a continuous expression of joy, yes? A parent rejoices in their children—they have continuous joy over them. Likewise, when we become children of God—when we are no longer enemies but God deems us saints by faith—there is joy in Heaven. Every single day, God is rejoicing over you as His son or daughter. As His sons and daughters, we turn to praise Him in worship—our rejoicing through hymns and song of our great and awesome God. In worship we receive the joy of the hope we have in Christ because of His grace. We receive His joy in forgiveness, the sacraments, and receiving the Gospel through His Word. And God in turn rejoices over His children who love Him.