Can you eat your way to joy?

Does joy in life depend on how much you weigh?

This week, the Today Show debuted a new series featuring actress Valerie Bertinelli. Bertinelli has spent her life in the public eye. In 1975, at age 15, she got her big break in the sitcom One Day at a Time. In addition to acting, she’s had her own cooking show and been a spokesperson for Jenny Craig.

“Valerie Bertinelli is feeling positive about 2020,” the reporter said. That includes paying attention to her own needs.”

“When you’re busy taking care of other people you forget to take care of yourself. I’ve been working so hard for so long…I just want to know what true joy feels like,” Bertinelli said. 

Today said that Bertinelli brought joy to others through her TV roles while hiding her own sadness. Over the years she found comfort in food, leading to swings in her weight. But now, with the Today Show documenting her progress, she plans to eat better and lose weight to learn to feel better about herself.

Who can’t feel her pain?

Women of all ages are crushed by a culture that places a premium on youth and beauty. Any standard of beauty that would suggest that the lovely Valerie Bertinelli needs to lose weight is arbitrary, harmful, and impossible to achieve.

And if your eating failed to cover sadness, does it follow that you can eat your way to joy?

The Christian faith has a whole different path to joy that doesn’t depend on one’s weight, bank account, job prospects, number of Facebook friends, or anything that can go up and down.

The great English preacher, the late David Martin Lloyd-Jones, said that the essence of the Christian faith is to say that “Jesus Christ is good enough and I am in Him.” To say that “I’m not good enough” is to deny the very essence of what it means to be a Christian.

Joy will always be illusive if it depends on anything that can go up and down.  

But the good news is that you are so attractive to Jesus Christ that he left heaven to pursue you. When you are in Him, you have the joy of knowing that you’ve been approved by the only one who matters, and that his approval will never change.

Dial-A-Carol

For over 50 years, students at the University of Illinois have had a unique way to spread holiday cheer. It’s called “Dial-A-Carol,” where live volunteers answer phones around the clock to sing any Christmas song you like. What volunteers lack in musicality, they make up for in enthusiasm, and they get calls from around the world.

Recently, the hosts of the Today Show thought it would be fun to call in. Host Tamron Hall asked, “What song shall we ask for?” Al Roker suggested “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.”

Tamron, age 45, said she’d never heard of it.

If you’re surprised, consider the finals of The Voice that same night on NBC. Contestant Jordan Smith sang, “Mary, Did You Know?” Afterward, Coach Adam Levine said he had never heard of that song, but was happy Jordan insisted on singing it because it fit who he was.

To be fair, Adam Levine is Jewish, but all this confirms my observation that sacred Christmas music is becoming increasingly rare on radio and TV. Kids are rarely taught it in school. Christmas pageants are nearly a thing of the past. And it’s not just Christmas carols that people no longer know. When couples who get married in our church request that the congregation sing a hymn at their wedding, almost no one sings. They not only don’t know the song, they don’t even know what to do with the hymnal.

We can either long for the days of Christendom, when everyone knew the songs because society expected everyone to be in church, or we can be the church God is calling us to be today. We have the privilege of making the Good News of Jesus Christ come alive for a new generation. We get to be the church for those who don’t know the great music of our faith, much less what it means.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is timeless, and can speak the truth of God into every culture.

What a privilege we have. What a joy to share the joy!