FOCUSING ON JOY
A GREAT JOY...FOR ALL PEOPLE. The authentic Christmas gift is joy, is it not? "I bring good news of a great joy that will be for all people." That's what the angels announced to shepherds, according to Luke's account. A great joy. For all people. I've been focusing there this first week of Advent: Joy...for all.
BUILDING BLOCKS OF ADVENT. Usually, I carefully observe the prescribed and logical progression of Advent protocol. This season of preparation and penitence is supposed to start with hope, move to faith, reflect on love, and then, and only then, bask in joy. Hopeful longing readies one for belief in God's personal promise, and that reveals a boundless love which, with the birth of Jesus, errupts in joy. This thing builds to a crescendo. In teaching and preaching terms, however, that means I only get to touch on the gift of joy ever so briefly one time a year. The capstone grace gets a Sunday. Short shrift for such a superlative. This year, however, I've decided to focus throughout Advent and Christmas on joy.
CAN'T RUSH JOY; BUT DON'T LIMIT IT, EITHER. Joy can't be rushed, to be sure. There's good reason why Christian tradition places it after hope and faith in the Advent building blocks. What's happening at the superstores and in the holiday frolicking is ample evidence enough that you can't manufacture, purchase, or produce joy. But just because it is not a surface-on-demand grace does not mean it should remain submerged until the Revised Common Lectionary poobahs say it's time to call it forth. I'm convinced that joy--lifted up, examined, explored, and chosen (yes, chosen...read Nouwen's and Neuman-Lee's comments in earlier posts)--can become a more readily experienced and expressed grace than usual Christian behavior and outlook normalizes.