Not So Expendable After All: An Advent Reflection on Joy

“Joy, collected over time, fuels resilience – ensuring we’ll have reservoirs of emotional strength when hard things do happen.”
– Brene Brown
It may be easy to think that, of the four themes we focus on in Advent, “joy” is the most expendable. It’s the one we’re most likely to dismiss or forgo because we’re busy and the world is a hard place, and it just doesn’t seem as important or helpful as hope or peace or love. And yet here it is, right in the middle of our Advent season, demanding our attention.
Perhaps joy has an important role to play after all. We are surrounded by mess and chaos and a world that sometimes seems like it’s on the brink of being lost entirely. It’s a slog. It’s exhausting. But joy is what reminds us why love, and hope, and faith are worth fighting for. It’s what reminds us that the hard things, no matter how much it may feel like they’re winning, they don’t get the final word. God does. And that is good news.
The holidays can be a hard season for some, a time when joy is hard to come by. And that’s okay. But just as we hold faith for one another, we can hold joy for one another too.
Joy gives us the strength we need to keep going. And it gives us the space to breathe a little too. And dream. In the midst of a narrative of despair, joy interjects like a voice of protest and resistance. And that’s what Jesus does too, in coming into the world, right in the midst of the chaos and the mess and the muck. It’s what Christmas does, year after year when it explodes into the middle of our lives and reminds us that God is with us, always, and that is reason to celebrate and rejoice.

Art produced by Lisle Garrity for the 2016 NEXT Church National Gathering.