Basilica of St. Anne De Beaupres. Quebec, Canada (personal photo)

I gasped in delight when I visited this sanctuary last year! I had never entered a worship space that was so explicitly intended for Joy! As I wandered among all the works of art, I sensed they were pointing toward two things: the healing of body and soul and the recognition of joy in the heart, all the time, not just in festival season, but a through note in all of a life seeking and living the sacred.

And now we are about to be stunned and amazed by the celebration of that Joy, a time we call Christmastide. I love the many ways that Joy keeps revealing itself in these last days of Advent: children dressed in red and green, singing their hearts out; cookie bakers with the objects of love in their hearts creating new and familiar recipes to console and thrill the recipients; generosity poured out, both in contributions for the broken places of the world and in random acts of kindness; homes and hearts opening wide to those who can use some solace, shelter and energizing!

Then we reflect all that Joy that comes from the Holy One in our observances.We sing loudly “Joy to the World!” We remember the sacred stories from Genesis to Revelation, reminding us that we have Joy as a constant companion–through disasters, through trauma, through tragedy, through grief. We don’t always sense it, know it, feel it, but we have been and are given it by the One who came to make our Joy complete.

I have been collecting quotations and poems and anecdotes about Joy in these past months, when there are moments when Joy seems to have vanished from the vocabulary and actions of the culture. I find Joy is the wisdom of saints from John Calvin to Maya Angelou who recognize that Joy is part of the way that we know that the Holy One is operative and lively and powerful in the world. I am choosing one that invites my attention and my action this Christmas from Henri Nouwen:

Joy does not simply happen to use…We must choose Joy and keep choosing it every day!

That’s what I am choosing this Christmastide and for the year to come!