As we prepare for the 3rd weekend of Advent, we ponder the word joy.

Joy wasn’t my strongest emotion this week, the week they cancelled Christmas. At least that is what a nurse told me when I asked where the Christmas trees were.  Didn’t you hear? She asked…

Yes, Christmas is different in 2020.  We can’t gather, we miss our hugs and social interactions.  We miss the church pageants and Carol singing and I miss the girlfriends gathering for lunch.

More than that I’ve been witness to suffering on a deeper level.  Discouragement and exhaustion in frontline workers.  Deep loneliness for those in care homes and hospitals.  Anger and deep divisions among those who don’t believe the virus is a real threat.

Although there is great hope of the announcements of vaccines there is also much suspicion and fear,  Winter is upon us, this dark season, and not even Christmas seems too cheerful this year.

My heart was especially with those who are truly suffering.  Some are dying.  Some whom I know.  These days are precious, as they cherish each sweet moment with their loved ones.

As I’ve looked for joy, I’ve also had to look at my sadness.  It has been real, felt deeply.  As I thought on these things, a devotional from Henri Nouwen arrived, and it couldn’t be more timely.

He says:

Joys are hidden in sorrows! I know this from my own times of depression. I know it from living with people with mental handicaps. I know it from looking into the eyes of patients, and from being with the poorest of the poor. We keep forgetting this truth and become overwhelmed by our own darkness. We easily lose sight of our joys and speak of our sorrows as the only reality there is.
We need to remind each other that the cup of sorrow is also the cup of joy, that precisely what causes us sadness can become the fertile ground for gladness. Indeed, we need to be angels for each other, to give each other strength and consolation. Because only when we fully realize that the cup of life is not only a cup of sorrow but also a cup of joy will we be able to drink it.

Isn’t that powerful?  I found great solace in that.

I’ve been thinking about the Christmas story… a birth with pain which brought much joy.  Did Mary ever fully understand what was to come?  As she gave birth to this miracle, this child of promise, she didn’t know she would flee Bethlehem with Joseph to save their son.  And years later, watching him die on a cross, her heart broken, could she grasp the bigger picture?  How she must have rejoiced at his resurrection, with awe and wondering.
I’ve come to believe that gratitude is a gateway to joy.   No matter what our circumstances, there is cause for thanks.  I woke up this morning in a warm bed.  I had coffee to drink.  I have a beautiful family.  The list is endless, for all of us.  And focusing on gratefulness does bring joy. Perhaps not always the bubbly intense kind, but a deep contentment that all is well.  And if not, all WILL be well . . .
Joy- a gift of gratitude

Joy- a gift of gratitude

I came across this beautiful reading this past week, which spoke to Me about joy.  It was from Madeleine L’Engle, who wrote:

Was there a moment … known only to God, when all the stars held their breath, when the galaxies paused in their dance for a fraction of a second, and the Word, who had called it all into being, went with all his love into the womb of a young girl … and the universe started to breathe again, and the ancient harmonies resumed their song, and the angels clapped their hands for joy? (Watch for the Light – Readings for Advent and Christmas).  

I wonder… are the stars holding their breath these days?  Does God, who I truly believe is Love, have a bigger plan than we can imagine?  For surely, even in our suffering, we will come to know joy.


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