by Jon Eckert, Ed.D.
As a boy, I always wondered what it would be like to be one of the wise men. There is adventure in this story—meeting an evil king who wants to kill Jesus, meeting the savior of the world as a child, and then sneaking home a different way.
However, if we distill the story to its essence, the wise men saw a star, they followed it, they "rejoiced exceedingly with great joy," then they fell down and worshipped. This is really our journey as Christians. We follow Christ because of his love for us, we rejoice exceedingly in His goodness, we experience joy, and we fall down and worship. Joy is more than happiness. It is the transcendent effervescence of our souls. Joy is our sense of the Trinity echoing throughout creation.
"Joy tends to involve some transcendence of self. It's when the skin barrier between you and some other person or entity fades away and you feel fused together. Joy is present when mother and baby are gazing adoringly into each other's eyes... We are seized by joy." 1 Can you imagine the joy the wise men would have seen between Mary and Jesus as a young boy?
In my time at Baylor, joy has seized me in many moments. Sometimes, I get a sunrise glimpse of Pat Neff still alight while walking under the spreading branches of the live oaks bordering Fountain Mall. Sometimes it is in God's fingerprints all over campus—the scriptures in the sidewalks, the prayers before basketball games, but mostly, through His people. I am seized by joy when I forget myself and am drawn into a deep conversation with a colleague, school leader, or student. We might be discussing an existential question, naming what we see God doing in our lives or on campus, or sharing a meal in our home. These are glimpses of eternity.
We experience joy because of the overflow of the goodness of the relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Christ came to Earth out of God's abundant love for us to bring us forgiveness, mercy, love, and joy! As we pursue academic excellence, grounded in His truth, we continue in a rich Christian tradition of scholarship. As Augustine wrote, "All truth is God's truth." When our relationships are grounded in our pursuit of God's Truth, embrace His grace, and abide in His love, we are seized by joy as our souls recognize the overflow of God's love made manifest in relationships.
As children and adults this advent season, if we can unleash our imaginations about what Christ has done for us, our souls will be seized by joy and that joy will effervesce to others. We serve an incarnate Savior whom we serve by pursuing Truth through our work at Baylor and know that we will spend eternity with the wise men and our risen King!
1 Brooks, D. (2019). The second mountain: The quest for a moral life. Random House. Pp. xxiv.