As I’ve journeyed through the advent themes of hope, peace and joy during my morning quiet times A grace-filled Advent – December 2019 , joy is the one which has seemed most incongruent to this world. It’s not that I don’t feel joy…I’m so incredibly grateful for the many blessings we have; our warm home, clean and hot water, food, health, indoor toilets, family and friends, freedom to go to our lovely church, beautiful countryside, fun places to visit and things to do.. And there are so many things that bring a sense of joy each day; mince pies and cream, bubble baths, the old wooden train set making it’s annual Christmas appearance, the kindness of a lady in a coffee shop giving myself and a friend extra large cups of coffee…
But as I look at our world, at situations filled with pain and trauma both near and far, doesn’t joy and celebration seem a bit insensitive?
Below are some thoughts from one of the verses I’ve been pondering this week.
“Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing.”
This was prophesied to the Israelites during a time of exile, waiting, reflection, suffering and longing. Joy and gladness would be hallmarks of the restored Jerusalem….and for us of the New Jerusalem. They are also signs of God’s kingdom here on earth. It made me think of the tavern in the Green Ember series (S.D. Smith). https://sdsmith.net/book/the-green-ember/ A place of feasting, laughing, singing, dancing, friendship. It’s purpose in the story was to remind the rabbits of how things used to be, and give them a glimpse of how a restored kingdom could be. Colour, rather than black and white. We live in a time of much suffering, many tears, many struggles and often a lack of hope.
Sometimes the celebrations are almost an act of defiance, an act of the will against all that is trying to crush us. They may seem insensitive when so many around us are crying out in despair or grief. And yet I wonder if the act of celebration is important because of this, not despite it. To give us hope. To be a place and a people where others can see a glimpse of hope. To offer a reprieve; laughter, chatting, food, warmth, colour and light in the midst of the mundaneness of life. Like the tavern in “Ember Rising” I pray that our home, with all our many imperfections and tensions and struggles would be a place where others can sense joy and gladness, hear the sounds of singing and see thanksgiving. A glimpse of our Saviour’s powerful and redemptive love.
Here are some of the ways we’ve found joy, creativity, fun and beauty in the midst of our Advent days.
The Bishop’s palace decorated for Christmas
Visit to a National Trust house, equally decked out, with some soul restoring friends.
As we enter into the fourth week of Advent and then into Christmas itself we will celebrate the birth of the One who loved us so much He entered into our messy, broken world to bring us hope, joy and peace and love; our Saviour, Jesus.