I've been mulling over this phrase throughout the advent season: Oh for joy. It seems we have a tendency to attach "joy" (or is it happiness?) to certain seasons, things, events, even people. Which is great - I think we should find joy in all of those things. But I think there's also something to be said for the joy that moves beyond our understanding, that joy which sits much deeper in our being.
We all have moments of discontentedness, suddenly somehow all that we have isn't quite enough. The world has taught us that our jobs, our family, our relationships, and our treasures will never be enough. And the world is right. It never will be enough. That's not where a deep-seated joy lies. And if all I see is down at my feet, at the little plot of ground I walk on, I can miss it. Which is perhaps why all of creation must repeat the sounding joy.
All this joy has got me thinking about loss. It has been a year of losses for many people. And this advent season may be harder than ever. Yet I find freedom in the realization that all of creation resounds about a joy that is abiding. There is a joy in this final week of advent, in the fulfillment of a promise, the hope of a nation, and the light in a world of darkness that transcends a year of loss or a year of plenty.
So, whether we lie in wait or wanting, in abundance or in blessing, in feast or famine - there is a great joy. A joy without condition. Beyond circumstance or situation. And it is at hand.
There's a man who is a window washer for several local business near the patisserie I work at. He comes early in the morning to do the windows, before the businesses he is serving are open, so he pops in the bakery for some water. He came in this week, and chatted with another customer while I filled his bucket. I have no idea all that they spoke of, but he left with a cup of coffee and a pound cake thanks to her kindness. I couldn't help but smile at the exchange of joy. The window washer called the shop later to let us know he was eating the lemon blueberry poundcake right then and it was amazing.
Such a small, seemingly insignificant act - yet potentially an immeasurable gift of compassion. I think of compassion as being with someone. The Lady of Kindness at the patisserie was with the Window Washer, offering him coffee and a bit of bread. In essence, offering him the eucharist - the bread and the cup of a table of grace. Like Emmanuel - God with us.
PS - I discovered a lovely rendition of the Christmas story this week. I love it for the simplicity, tenderness, and the party at the end.