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Amazon Joy Versus Advent Joy

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Will your joy this Christmas be Amazon Joy or Advent Joy?

Amazon opened in Australia today (finally!), so let me explain the difference between the two.  Amazon Joy is joy from the world, while Advent Joy is joy to the world.

Amazon Joy assumes that the world is a closed system.  Nothing breaks in.  We’re hermetically sealed off from any outside influence.  What Charles Taylor calls “the immanent frame”.

Amazon Joy is not just about buying stuff. It’s a way of looking at life that says even if there is a god, he does not intervene or interrupt. He does not break in to our world; global, local or personal. We’re sealed off. We make our own joy. We make our own meaning. We construct our own happiness.  We have to because there’s nothing else.

Amazon Joy means that thousands upon thousands of Australians can hold candles, sip wine and eat olives on blankets, and sing Joy To The World at Carols By Candlelight with deep emotion, yet remain convinced in thought and practice, that if there is any joy, it has to come from here; either from within them or from what they can discover or find for themselves.  We make our own joy. We’d better, because no one else is going to deliver it to us.  That’s Amazon Joy.

God has given us many things in our world that bring us great joy; family, love, food and drink (wine to gladden the heart of man, apparently), and a lovely planet. Yet so few people think that.  So few think about any joy coming to the world from outside the world never mind Advent Joy.

Amazon Joy fits the Western narrative perfectly. Amazon Joy is the default because we Aussies are self-made. No one gets to defines joy for us. We do that for ourselves. What’s true or good for you may not be true or good for me. What makes you happy may not be what makes me happy.   Amazon Joy, joy from the world says “Create your own meaning
No one else can – or will – create it for you.”

Yet, conversely, it can be so brutal in a way that we never realise. Until that joy disappears, either through a stubborn lack of joy despite things generally being okay, or through the presence of sorrow because things are not okay.

When Amazon Joy no longer arrives on our doorstep we realise too late that such joy could never hold the weight of our expectations. So instead of joy we’re depressed, angry and devastated. We throw blame around. We try to numb our pain by yet more stuff from this world.

We won’t settle for sorrow. We search for a half way house; an anxious joylessness.  And we shrink the gap between our next online purchase, our next experience, our next change up, our next reboot, our next relationship. Like existential sharks, always moving, never stopping less we die.

Like all created things, Amazon Joy was not designed to hold us up in a way that only Advent Joy can.

But it’s not simply the irreligious that don’t know this.  The religious often forget it too.

In Luke 1, when the angel Gabriel announces to that old childless priest, Zechariah, that his wife Elizabeth will bear a son, the angel says: “He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth.

Zechariah and Elizabeth are going to be given a joy that they have been unable to manufacture themselves.  True, their child will be perfectly human, but the angel’s first words to Zechariah after telling him not to fear are; “Your prayers have been answered.”

God has broken in!  The universe is not cold, impersonal and empty to our cries.  Joy is coming to both Zechariah and Elizabeth, and to the world, because Someone heard that prayer outside the world.

But what is Zechariah’s response?   Faith?  No.  Unbelief.

it’s easy to confess Advent Joy, but believe, deep down, in Amazon Joy.  Zechariah is a priest serving in the temple, who has prayed for a child, and when God comes through with a cast iron promise, we are told he just can’t believe it.  (Luke 1:18-20).

Perhaps this Christmas it’s a time for God’s people to press reset on Advent Joy, and truly believe that our God can break in to his world again, just as he did for us in Jesus.  Let’s show by our lives that in an Amazon Joy world, with its commitment to the immanent frame, that we are a people of Advent Joy who seek joy not in our circumstances here, nor in the things we have or are promised from below, but only from the joy that comes to our world.

Because, let’s face it, Amazon Joy always provides a return address, while Advent Joy promises fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore.


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Posted: 5 December 2017

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Steve currently works as a pastor and church planter for Providence Church, and in his writing dabbles in a number of fields, notably theology and culture. He lives with his family in the eastern Hills of Perth – a vantage point just high enough to give him a good idea of how incredibly fast the city is growing.

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