Anne Sexton proclaims that there is Joy in all! What more evidence can there be than the blossoming of five irises, with at least five to come amid the long-desired rainfall that appeared in these last days of Advent! Christmas comes replete with tidings of comfort and Joy in the arrival of the Baby Jesus, who at this celebrated moment is only a hope, a possibility and a dream! And I have done all that I can, both to make my beloved ones comfortable and Joyful, and to enter into the Joy myself, sometimes with mixed success. Yet the signs of Hope throughout Advent have kept pushing me to stay awake to the places and ways which, in the words of C, S. Lewis, “…cheerfulness keeps breaking in!”
The signs and the blooms of Joy on this day are everywhere–children singing loudly, even on key, the old Christmas carols with open hearts and wide eyes; thoughtful and prophetic pastors who don’t settle for the same old/same old messages and routine; caring friends who acknowledge my limitations this year, and come round in message or person anyway; posts from those who are feeding the hungry, expanding their giving on behalf of the vulnerable, writing and marching for both justice and mercy for the little ones.
Yet, many among my acquaintances want to make sure that I know that there are many for whom Joy is not readily accessible, and I am deeply aware of that. Hospitalizations, freak accidents, sudden losses, fractures of personal connections that can’t seem to heal, all make Joy a slippery commodity. And the “weary world!” Good grief! what can we say to the callousness, the arrogance, the brutality and the self-absorption that makes up the Slough of Despond through which we are muddling these days!
I submit once again the Joy–the Joy that is heralded by the angels–is not connected to the era in which we live, the location we inhabit, our status within or without families, even our body’s frailty. It is a gift from the Holy One, reflecting that above, around and through all we are created by God. The write of the Psalms remind us that in Holy Presence is fullness of Joy (Psalm 16:11). Two themes go throughout sacred testament–1) Joy is gift of God, even as it was when Christ was born, and 2) humans have the capacity to choose it, even when they are in dire straits and unhappy. I cannot choose for anyone else, but I can make it my aim in my quest to keep the Light shining to choose joy. Karl Barth says, ” Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.”
And so on this Christmas Day I again commit myself to choosing and practicing Joy–in the healing process my body is in, in the disappointment in what people do and don’t do, among the miasma of doomsday prognosticators–Joy because in Holy Presence is fullness of joy, and Christmas comes to tell me that the Christ will never leave or forsake. That belief and ground in Joy is what keeps me centered when I am called to lobby for mercy for the poor, to protest injustice for the displaced, to advocate for those who do not have the privilege I have as a white, heterosexual person with education. .
Joy to the world…God has come and given me power to share and spread that Joy!