Joy in a hard year


This Sunday is Gaudete Sunday – the third Sunday in Advent, with the theme – joy. We get to light our pink candle! And we are invited to ask, where is joy? In this Covid world after this hard year it is a chance to stop and wonder, what brings us joy? How does God bring joy into this world through you?

A couple of years ago I talked about some research by Sonja Lyubomirsky quoted in “The Book of Joy - Lasting Happiness in a Changing World” by Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu and Douglas Abrams. Using this research, they talked about the three ways of being joyful as; the ability to reframe a situation positively; the ability to experience gratitude; and the voice to be kind or generous.

Advent is a time when we nurture the seeds of love, hope, joy, and peace that God plants within each of us. It is a time to feed the soil of our soul and allow these seeds to root and grow in our lives. It is surprising how often these three ways of nurturing joy keep coming up from the spiritual traditions of both Buddhism and Christianity as ways to pay attention to, and water and nurture the divine gift of joy. We are invited to take hold of Paul’s affirmation that God alone is the source of our joy.

But Advent is more than OUR love, hope, joy, and peace. Ultimately, as today’s readings remind us, it is about what brings God love, hope, joy, and peace. Today we particularly ask what brings God joy. And Isaiah 61 offers a stark vision of God’s joy in God’s faithful transforming the devastation of post exilic Jerusalem.

As we look back on this year, and look forward to an unknown future where might we find this God of joy? Following in the footsteps of the baptising John the Witness (of John’s gospel) how do we live that witnesses to and points to this God of joy?

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