Advent 3: Joy – Omar Reyes
I used to think of joy as a destination.
“Once I’m married, have a great job, and own my own house; then I will be joyful.”
Of course, this kind of thinking set me up for failure because joy was directly connected to external circumstances. Isn’t that how we tend to think of joy? Like a child on Christmas morning, we reach the apex of joy at the moment we finally open the gifts we’ve been longing to open for all those weeks. But what if the promise of joy is something more than that? What if it’s possible to experience joy no matter the external circumstances?
The Apostle Paul understood joy as something different. He writes, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness…” (Galatians 5:22). In other words, joy is something slowly grown and cultivated in our lives as a direct result of the Creator’s presence.
It wasn’t until I had children that I began to learn how wrong I had been about joy. Life with children is taxing, challenging, and exhausting. It’s full of risk, heartache, and anxiety. Yet, underneath all of those overwhelming emotions was this constant, quiet melody of joy. Some days it would be clear and resonant, while on other days it was soft and almost undetectable. Sometimes, when I stopped to listen to this melody, it didn’t matter how exhausted or stressed I was, I drew strength from the faint joy I could feel reverberating from my heart. I then realized joy was not a destination but a companion.
Joy is loud and exuberant. But it’s also reflective, quiet, and restrained. Joy can be heard in songs and laughter. But it can also be heard in whispers and sighs. Don’t be troubled if your joy isn’t like everybody else’s; joy can be secretively sustaining. Yet, joy isn’t only meant to be a solitary experience. It’s something to be shared and infused into the lives of those around us. Jean Vanier puts it well when he says, “When we begin to believe that there is greater joy in working with and for others, rather than just for ourselves, then our society will truly become a place of celebration.”
So, let us celebrate the joy growing within us even during the days when all we can utter is “bah humbug”. Let’s listen to the melody it’s playing and allow it to echo through our words and actions. May our joy be contagious and generous.