“Joy to the World!” The song rings out, at churches, in elevators, and stores, to bring good news. Plus, this Sunday was the lighting of the third Advent candle, identified as joy which the definition tells us is an emotion of great delight.


Certainly, I felt joy as I watched my granddaughter dance in her Christmas program. Not so many years ago, it was her mother’s graceful steps I saw, now passed down to another generation. Amid the craziness of gathering costume, tights, and shoes, hair done up, and make-up applied, I felt my joy begin to bubble up and then overflow when I finally got to watch Elsa actually dance.


Tomorrow, I will go to my grandson’s first band concert. Shortly after I arrived at their home in Minnesota, he was excited to play his music for me. His long arms and fingers gently pushing and pulling the trombone slide back and forth in enthusiasm. I will be prepared for the “beautiful music” of the middle school band concert and I will feel joy.

It is an emotion of great delight I will take in, especially after a long two years of pandemic and isolation. But I cannot ignore the sense that joy can be complex. As it rises up, other images, contradicting the delight, compete alongside.


What does my 103 yr. old father-in-law, who’s lost his ability to see and hear the birds he loves and the strength to do anything but eat, sleep, and wait?  Is it joy in the memories of the past, the deep faith he holds that tells him he will soon be back in the arms of his beloved wife?


What about my friend whose husband died two months ago, at the bathroom sink while preparing for work? Does the joy of the last concert they enjoyed, soften the feelings of emptiness?


Or does the immigrant, everything familiar gone, sadness and loss, find joy in a sense of security and safety in a land not at war, Will they feel again a sense of home?


What I know, is joy isn’t simple as the definition or the Christmas cards make it

out to be, but is as complicated as the world we live in.


Here are some of my reflections that make me see the complexity of joy:


Joy is a gift. It is a gift I receive and a gift I give and isn’t something I experience in isolation. It is an experience of “between” – between me and another person, place (nature), an experience (like dancing), or something that brings a memory.


Joy is a responsibility. Because I receive joy, I think it is partly my responsibility to create opportunities for joy for others. It may be as simple as opening a door for someone pushing a wheelchair, or a smile. Because it about “seeing” someone else beyond the exterior dressing.


Joy is an internal job. Life is tough and will have its way with me. I can’t control what happens to me, but I can choose how I will respond. That’s the difference between finding and experiencing joy or not.


We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live with joy. Joseph Campbell


Joy can be messy. My life has never been neat and clean, predictable or organized and is quite often messy. But I can still find joy in the midst of the chaos.


Joy is more than . . . My sense of joy often feels like something has happened and it is just there – unpredictable, in unlikely places and it just shows up.


Joy is holy.


Find a place inside you where there is joy, and the joy will burn out the pain. Joseph Campbell


May you find joy this season as complex as it is.

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