Every year, I look forward to the Neosho Laymen’s League pre-Christmas services. For more than seven decades, the men of Neosho have met at local churches for a week of celebration in anticipation of Christmas Day. This year, the services were held at Second Baptist Church. The men were great hosts, and the church was packed each morning.
While I look forward to the services, it is also a very long and tiring week. Waking up at 5 a.m. to make it to the fellowship at 6 a.m. with the service following is not getting any easier on this six-decade-old body. But at the end of the week, it is worth all the sleepy evenings trying to stay awake.
I was introduced to the Laymen’s League Services by Jim Gage in 1985. Jim was a great man, and one I looked up to with admiration. Jim didn’t really invite me to the services; he just more or less told me that he would see me there that year, and that was that. I was in attendance, and over the years have missed very few days. In 1989, I even had the privilege of being invited to be one of the speakers.
As I looked around the gathered men this year, it made me proud to live in such an amazing community. In attendance were the men who mentored me as a young man and that I look to even today as role models for serving one another.
Of course, we always sing Christmas hymns such as “Joy to the World,” which started me thinking. At this time of year, people like to talk about peace on earth and goodwill to all men. In reality, most people don’t really mean it. They think they do, but then they don’t put action behind the words and live differently most of the rest of the year.
And what about “joy to the world?” Of course, in the context of the song, it means the joy that we have because of Christ’s birth, but let’s take this a little different direction.
How many of us are truly joyous any time of the year? Do we ever truly find joy, or is it something that just seems to be right out of reach of our eager minds? And what is joy in the first place?
In the United States, we have let the advertising agencies convince us that joy comes from the newest gadget or the biggest toy — and I’m talking about grown up type toys such as cars and televisions. If we just have that next great thing, then surely we will be happy and experience joy in life. Here’s the kicker — the pursuit of material things has never led to happiness or joy.
I know, you’re saying, “Let me win the big Lotto jackpot, and I’ll see for myself if money can buy happiness.” Guess what, in case you don’t know the answer, it is “no, it won’t.” You might be content with more material things surrounding you, but they will never bring you the joy that you seek.
Take a look at the news. How many screwed up rich people do you see in this world? You think these people have everything going for them. I’m not saying rich people can’t be happy, but if they are, then the happiness and joy doesn’t come from what they own.
On my two trips to Africa, I witnessed people who were beyond poor in the eyes of the Western world, yet I saw so much joy and happiness. They found joy in life and not the things of life.
I am no different from any of you. I sometimes want more and like the security of my things. But comfort and security is not joy. It might bring a certain amount of contentment, but joy is much different. And just like you, I am guilty in this false sense of joy.
The song “Joy to the World” brings us our answer to what is joy. Knowing that Christ is in control regardless of how out of control this world becomes brings us the joy that we seek so fervently. Knowing that God is always with us — even in the depths of our personal despair — brings us joy. Knowing that our savior was born and then died for us brings us joy.
In this season of celebration, do not turn to material things to bring you joy. Rest well knowing that we have a God who loves us so much that he sent his son to redeem us and save us to experience true joy.
Merry Christmas, and may God bless you in the coming year.
Kevin Wilson is a former state representative and lives in Neosho.