Last year my husband John and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary with a trip to the United States. Like most Australian tourists, Disneyland in California was high on our list of must see places and attractions. I am sure that all those who have been to Disneyland would agree with me when I say that it truly is a special place. The overwhelming emotion in the atmosphere at Disneyland is happiness. In fact, the marketing tag line for Disneyland actually is; “Disneyland – The Happiest Place on Earth”.
Disneyland is truly unlike many of the Australian theme parks I have encountered. The rides are phenomenal, the entertainment is top rate, the customer service is first class and the food is generously portioned. While these things are important, what struck me the most was that the people, whether it was staff or visitors to the park, were all so happy. On one of the days we were at Disneyland, it was very hot (42 degrees C), it was crowded and the lines for many of the rides were very long. Yet I did not come across one person complaining. Instead, everyone appeared to be happy just to be there with their friends and family and to wait for as long as it took in gleeful anticipation for the ride that was ahead.
While John and I were waiting in the queue for the Matterhorn Bobsled ride I couldn’t help but overhear the conversation of a young married couple in front in of me. It was relatively early in the day and the wife in particular was very excited and seemed overjoyed at being at Disneyland. She turned to her husband saying “I can’t believe we are actually here. I am so happy. This is an awesome day,” and as she took his hands in hers, she looked him in the eye and said, “This is why we work so hard, for holidays like this.”
Granted that we were in the “happiest place on earth” but even I was taken aback at the depth of enjoyment that this young woman was getting out of this experience. As we continued to wait in the line I began to contemplate how much this must actually mean to her and what she and her husband may have had to sacrifice to be here. I imagined they would have both worked hard and been disciplined with their money, perhaps even working overtime or taken on second jobs to save up for their holiday. But whatever it was they had to do, whatever sacrifices they made, it seemed abundantly evident to them that right now, at this moment, it was all worth it. It appeared that what kept them going when things weren’t going so well at work, when they felt tired or stressed or had to forego other luxuries during the year, was the joyful anticipation of what was to come – a trip to Disneyland.
Needless to say I was impressed by this young couple who, apart from a polite greeting as we joined the queue behind them and what I learned from eavesdropping on their conversation, I did not even know. Our brief interaction with this vibrant pair was a wonderful reminder to me that when times get tough, how important it is to look forward and to focus on the joy that lies ahead for us.
In Hebrews 12:2 the Bible tells us that Jesus did this very thing “Because of the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now He is seated in the place of honour beside God’s throne.”
This year at Cedars we are celebrating “joy” and there is no better example of how to live a joy-filled life than that of Jesus. It humbles me to think of all that Jesus endured during His life on earth for me. Yet He did all of this without grumbling or complaining. Instead, He did this for the joy that was set before Him or put simply, He did this in anticipation of the great things that He knew were up ahead for us.
As a Christian community it is important for us to recognise that we, both collectively and as individuals, represent the “joy” that was set before Jesus. We are His joy. I think, it was the joyful anticipation of seeing each one of us rightfully restored in our relationship with God the Father that enabled Christ to make the amazing sacrifices that He did – it was for us. As we enter into the Christmas season we often hear of and sing about the joy that Jesus’ birth brought into the world but equally so, we need to remember that we are His joy and this too is certainly worthy of celebration.