You Can’t Buy Joy// FaithWalk


(c) photocillin/ Flickr

At this time of year there’s a pressure from retailers and advertisers to persuade us that happiness can be bought. In all our frenzied gift buying and searching for the ideal thing or gadget, we take delight in knowing that the faces that we see unwrapping those gifts will reflect heightened happiness – that is, if we’ve chosen well! – on Christmas morning.

But joy is something beyond happiness. It cannot be bought, it cannot be faked – it’s a deeper, richer state of being than happiness. It doesn’t depend on what we have or on our circumstances; it doesn’t depend on where we live or our status in society. This doesn’t mean that we won’t experience problems or pain – but the promise found in the Bible is that “Tears may flow in the night, but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)

Even when we’re dragged to the depths of despair and everything’s going wrong, joy wins. Paradoxically, joy can be an underlying state – the default setting for the Christian life that underpins our lives – even when, at times, it seems everything’s against us.

Westerners are often astounded by the joy on little kids’ faces on dusty village streets in poorer parts of Africa. They have so little, but their community and sense of fun reflects their inner joy.

Unlike happiness, which is often fickle or eludes us, joy keeps bouncing back. Much like oil which can’t be whisked or stirred away in water – joy can’t help but rise to the surface. At Christmastime we sing ‘Joy to the World’ because Christ has given us hope and given us meaning.

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Creative Commons – Justina Turpin

If Christ is in us and we have hope of his promises – joy bubbles to the surface, sending its rippling effects into the mundane or hopeless parts or life. It may not deplete all the bad stuff, but its presence is a tangible and noticeable force in the murky water of life.

The band Pentatonix, featured in the video below, have produced a brilliant, a capella rendition of that famous carol and enthused it with their own passion and energy. And joy is etched on their faces as they sing, even though they may not believe in the God who created them with smiles and shiny eyes to reflect His image and His glory. I’m sure that God who gave them lungs to breathe and voices to sing loves to hear everyone sing his praise, even if they don’t believe the words they’re singing.

While happiness is at the mercy of circumstances and dependent on feelings, joy is eternal. Even in the wealthy West, with all that we have and all the opportunities afforded us, we can still find ourselves unhappy.

The wonderful thing about joy is that it’s not about us; it’s about the person of Christ and it’s about our hope and our future – things that can never be taken away from us. Happiness is about me and how I feel, or whether others are making me happy; joy is found in Someone else whose feelings towards me don’t fluctuate.

This Christmas, Christians everywhere pause from all their shopping, parties and rushing about to focus on the One who came to bring peace, hope and joy. And that makes the greatest difference throughout the year, not just during the festive season.

Unto Us// Mary and Joe

Unto Us
 is an absolutely compelling Christmastime gem. Set to the backdrop of modern day scenery and haunting ‘Oh Come, Emmanuel’ cello melody, the actors portray the sheer emotions of a modern day telling of Christ’s birth. In just one minute and fifty-nine seconds, the mystery, the mayhem and the glory of Jesus’ arrival is translated onto screen.

The results are impressive; I found myself being moved to the core of my being. For those who have seen multiple nativities or screen depictions of that one Bethlehem birth, and have perhaps lost the wonder of what really happened; this little film is an absolute joy to watch. Sit back and bask in the wonder of Emmanuel’s coming. If there’s one thing you share online this Christmas, let it be this.

What I love about Bear Grylls

In an era of cynicism and negativity, I find the character of Bear Grylls exceedingly refreshing. Constantly upbeat and dynamic, he encourages everyone to step beyond their small mindset and think big – to achieve what others call ‘the impossible’.

Chief Scout in the UK, enterprising, risk-taking and wholly inspiring, Bear Grylls is also a model parent. Having three sons myself, I take a keen interest in both his style and wisdom. I also share the same faith as Grylls and find his words concerning the spiritual to be genuine and heartfelt.

What better person to feature on my last blog of the year?

Here is a short Christmas message that was recorded at a London church recently. I find it worthy of repeating here – a simple and timeless message. Enjoy.

Be sure to also check out the amazing song ‘Mary Did You Know’ (a couple of posts down).

‘Tis the Season to be … Grumpy! / FaithWalk

 A few years ago I distinctly remember going round some busy shops close to Christmas, feeling quite upbeat and happy, and actually not in a tremendous rush (probably quite rare for me!) I was just getting a few last minute things. As I wandered around and queued at the tills, it struck me just how miserable everyone seemed.

Here we are in the West, with all the clothes, food and technology we could possibly want, and yet so many seem so absolutely fed up.

Christmas has morphed into an obscene commercial enterprise, where advertisers dole out their image of what Christmas should be: laughing children, sitting by the fireside, families kitted out in the latest fashion, a feast fit to impress Nigella Lawson and of course plentiful snow and stacks of perfectly wrapped presents. The reality is often rather off the mark…

People are feeling stressed, lonely, anxious, perhaps worried about finances, ex husbands or in-laws, and all the while pressured to create the ideal festive celebration.

I put together this light-hearted, alternative to the carol – ‘Tis the season to be jolly’, with the last verse featuring a voice for the Christian perspective. ‘Do we have light and life in our hearts?’ is the question we should never cease asking ourselves, not just at Christmas. Let’s place less emphasis on following everyone’s expectations and make Jesus the focus once more.

Oh, and look out for those sad faces over the season; someone you know could be among them.


Tis the season to be grumpy Fa la la la la, la la la la

People crashing into you with their trolleys! Fa la la la la, la la la la

Shops are too full, traffic’s standing still

Kids are all whining: “WHEN is it Christmas?!”

 Nobody knows if they’re coming or going,

Drinking too much at Christmas time / wrapping hundreds of presents at Christmas time


Tis the reason to be silly Fa la la la la, la la la la

Wearing these hats, and overfilling our tummies Fa la la la la, la la la la

Ten packs of mince pies, a turkey that’s oversized

Dancing like crazy at the work party

Everyone’s thinking  “When- will- it all be over?”

And then we’ll just repeat and- do- it again next year!


Lots- of- people are wondering “what’s the point?”, Fa la la la la, la la la

Many try escaping by going on holiday Fa la la la la, la la la la

Some start rowing more, others party till-their-heads-are-sore,

Hoping they’ll find some meaning in the madness

Santa used to be their reason for believing

But now the grown-ups have nothing-to-hope for


Tis the season to be joyful, Fa la la la la, la la la la

We  have light and life in our hearts, Fa la la la la, la la la la

People are wondering, if we’re any different

Or if we’re just stuck in silly traditions!

Jesus means more than all of our presents –  

We can’t even remember what we got last year!

Yes Jesus gives us reason to celebrate!