I don’t really understand joy. It seems to shout, to demand a party. I have moments of joy that fill my heart and overflow in tears, or laughter, or singing but they are fleeting and far between. I have come to understand that while joy seems elusive, there are other parts of it, I can grab a hold of. I can enjoy… I can intentionally direct my heart to enjoy the moment I am in.
I once heard that if you had to move 3 inches to have joy, you would never have it. I understand that joy is an inside job, not a reaction to circumstances. That helped me rethink joy as an attitude, and a discipline rather than an elusive emotion. As I read today’s verse, I think that Mary and Joseph might have understood this. Their joy, did not come from their circumstances but from an intentional awe.
…and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.
She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger,
because there was not room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7
As they rested in the quiet after the drama of their travels, after the heartbreak of their rejection, and the fear and wonder of the birth of their son, they could have easily focused their attention on all that was wrong in this situation. They were far from home, vulnerable and alone. Joseph may have felt that he failed his new wife, Mary like many new moms may have been traumatized by the actual act of giving birth. As they baby slept, did their emotions sweep over them?
And yet, that baby! Did they focus their attention at this miraculous child. The child of promise. Did they recognize and enjoy the shelter of the stable and clean straw? Did they enjoy each others presence? Did they enjoy the food they had packed and carried on their journey. Joy, I think sparkles best against the backdrop of difficulty.
This Christmas season is marked by discouragement and loss. Life has lost a bit of it’s luster for me. And yet, when I point my heart at joy… and choose to lean into this moment there are many things to recognize and enjoy. My soft gray kitten’s whiskers against my skin, the sound of my daughter’s voice, time spent with that boy/man I adore. Joy comes when I acknowledge the miracle of bowed heads and my husband’s deep voice praying, amen. The crackle of the fire, a 50 degree day in December, friends gathered to deal with real life, and the fellowship of we are here, you’re not alone are all moments where joy bubbles to the surface of my life.
Where are you experiencing joy this season?