Joy has a flip side.
When we were in the Holy Land our guide would periodically say, “Oy vey.”
I’m not sure many of us knew what she meant. But using context clues we were able to figure out that it wasn’t a phrase uttered in absolute joy. It would happen when we would arrive to a site and there would be 10 other groups in front of us or when our bus would meet another large bus on a road that seemed designed only for a 2-seater car. She said it a lot the morning after we were woken by fighter jets because Iran sent a missile into Israel.
The phrase “oy vey” is a Yiddish phrase used to communicate dismay or grief.
If we look at the word “Joy” we will see that we can’t have that word without the “oy” in it.
And that’s true for joy, period.
Joy has a flip side.
Think of a time in your life that you’ve been particularly joyful. Perhaps it was a time when you were surrounded by those that you loved. Or a time of great success in your professional life. A time when you finally accomplished something that for so long had seemed unattainable.
When we think of times that we’ve been full of joy, if we are honest with ourselves and look at the WHOLE picture, we will see that times of great joy have also been marked by times of great struggle and sadness.
It’s apparent throughout the Christmas story . . . all the people involved in that story experienced times of personal struggle which gave way to times of joy.
The message of hope for us?
Regardless of the difficulty of the struggle, at some point the struggle does break away and we are able to move through it, to get to the other side.
And the other side of the struggle, the rest of “oy vey” is “Joy!”
If Mary or Joseph had thrown in the towel at their own struggles, we’d not have the powerful message of hope and joy delivered from Bethlehem 2000+ years ago.
May we each remember that “Joy” has a flip side.
May we remember to NOT throw in the towel today . . . or ANY day!
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13).

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