Greetings everyone! I am currently on vacation in California. And yes, we went to California with a weak Canadian dollar! But we had purchased our flights and accommodations long before the dollar went down. And so, all we have had to pay for is our food. I told Kathy that if only we would fast for a week, we would be fine!
To celebrate my 60th birthday, we have just taken our children and grandchildren to Disneyland. I wanted our family to be together, and so this was my gift to myself. I have seen my granddaughter’s face as she met the Disney princesses, including Ariel, Jasmine, Belle, and Cinderella. My grandsons and granddaughter were delighted with the rides, displays and parades. Their joy was the best birthday present I could ever receive!
One day, my son-in-law, who is a fireman, invited me to join him in visiting the local fire department in Anaheim. In no time, we met the fire chief, and sat in the room with him and his team, talking to them about life as a fire fighter next to Disneyland.
I learned that when there is a medical emergency at Disneyland, the first responders are instructed to move those with medical difficulties as quickly and safely as possible. The happiest place on earth is less than happy with people being assisted by firefighters dealing with a medical emergency. Indeed, if someone cannot be moved, the staff is instructed to form a group around the individual lying on the ground, and place sheets around them. This way, the happy tourists at Disneyland do not need to be reminded of pain, brokenness and misery (the reality of living in a sin cursed creation).
And that got me thinking. What I write is in no way intended to criticize Disneyland. The experience there was joyful and entertaining without any hint of immorality. It truly was a wholesome experience for the entire family. But still, I am thinking about the phrase, “The Happiest Place on Earth.”
According to Jesus, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”; “blessed are those who mourn, blessed are the meek, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness.” Indeed, Jesus promised a great deal of joy to those who are reviled and persecuted. To the persecuted, He gave a command: “Rejoice and be glad.”
It does seem strange that Jesus thought the happiest place was not the place where the miseries of life are quickly hidden from our eyes. He thought there was great delight in reveling in the reality that the Kingdom of Heaven was among us – even though the reality of a fallen world still awaits its defeat. When we have faithfulness to our Lord in a fallen world, we look forward to the final consummation of the kingdom and the reward that lies before us.
And therefore, the question of where true happiness is to be found is at the very heart of the gospel. Christians find joy in cancer, persecution, when slandered and even as they fight for purity in a world where it is so often absent. We find joy, for we know that our Lord is sovereign and will soon bring all things under the rule of His kingdom. But we also find it as we enter into the brokenness of this world as a servant of Jesus – for that is a higher joy than the absence of suffering altogether.