I sure want to feel joyful during this Advent season, filling my lungs with robust breaths shouting out “JOY TO THE WORLD!” It’s Christmas season after all, and JOY is the Advent word to contemplate this week.
Ba Humbug! I just don’t feel it.
I’ve been avoiding Christmas shopping, yet yesterday on the way into the gym, the department store windows with diamond white blinking Christmas lights, filled with presents shining in colorful wrappings with green and red bows, sparked childhood Christmas memories of walking with my grandma into Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City, a special treat during Christmas season before going to see the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall. For brief moments, soft snow puffs fell upon me, a song ringing in my heart, “Sleighbells ring, are you listening, in a land snow is glistening, a beautiful sight, I’m happy tonight, walking in a winter wonderland”. Mind you, it’s 80 degrees in San Diego. The Christmasy store beckoned. I went in. Yet, not more than a minute later, a spell of nausea and dizziness struck. Displays of jewelry, bubble bath, fuzzy socks and fancy clothes turned into animated cartoon characters grabbing hold of my hands, jumping on my back, tugging at my shirt sleeves as I tried to break free, running fast out the door unable to take a breath.
The more we follow the way of Christ, the more Christmastime USA brings flu-like symptoms. This is actually a good thing when we can get under our skin to find the true meaning of Christmas, where authentic joy sits on the warmer like hot chocolate and a cozy blanket waiting for us to curl up by it’s fire.
There’s always darkness first before the dawn. Advent is a season of darkness and expectant awaiting for new birth, the birth of Christ, the light of the world. In some Christian traditions, we light the candles for four weeks before Christmas; week one for hope, two for peace, this week for joy, and Christmas Eve we light the candle for love. I’ve found that contemplating each word in prayerfulness the first two weeks was much like shining a dirty diamond — despair revealed hope and hope shepherded me to the heart of Christ’s peace. Just the same, in prayerfully contemplating joy this week, I must first wipe the grime off the American Christmas version of joy, discovering the gem of gems that shines beneath, where the heart of Christ blazes.
Writing this begins my prayerful expedition excavating joy this Advent week. These unfolding words reveal a tiny glimmer, like a warm glow of logs burning in a fireplace deep within, where the presence of the joy of Christ resides. It reminds me Christ is always with us even in the stormy, charcoal colored clouds that shroud our lives, our nation and our moods. This warm glow brings a sense that with deeper contemplation, with expectancy, with cherished hope and peace, I will sing JOY TO THE WORLD with gusto, finding joy naturally unfolding into the epiphany– the LOVE we light in the candle in our hearts on Christmas Eve.
Will you join me?
Although I’m overwhelmed by the amount of times joy and joyful is mentioned in the Bible when I look in the index, which makes me believe joy is an overriding theme in the story of life, here are a few scriptures to begin with:
Isaiah 35; Isaiah 49:13; Psalm 29:7; Psalm 47:1; Luke 1:8-11