Christmas is a time of such mixed emotional experiences for many of us. In the span of a week I have laughed and feasted with neighbours, attended a touching Christmas concert, mourned at a funeral of a dear woman who suddenly passed away, sipped specialty coffees with friends, cried with a friend who received bad news, and shared dozens of hugs borne out of delight and sorrow. What is it about this season that holds such highs and lows?
We are vulnerable people, experiencing more than we can carry and never so sure of what tomorrow will hold. But Christmas comes with built in reminders that even in our vulnerability we are never alone. In the weeks leading up until Christmas we celebrate a season called Advent. It’s really four weeks of waiting with anticipation. Three of the weeks are named as Hope, Peace, and Love – three very tender words that comfort us this time of year. We are reminded that we are in God’s hands, held with great care.
Yet there is one week that stands out, the week where we remember Joy. Joy is what awaits us at the end of a long dark night. Christmas morning, with gifts and good food and family, softens our sorrow and hard experiences. Joy is a gift and a feast. When we are sometimes painfully reminded of our vulnerability and limits, joy welcomes to sit, laugh, and eat with others. Joy comes wrapped in a package that looks a lot like those we know and love. Joy is found in the midst of people: family, friends, and even neighbours. Our tables, meals, and times with others this Christmas season is a gift of joy for the soul, if we are willing to receive it.
There is a secret to joy, however. Joy is found when it is shared, not consumed. Joy is not a commodity, it is a gift. We are told we can buy joy, but we truly cannot. A thing or stuff or pleasure is alright for a brief moment, but joy fills our hearts when it is given away and created between you and another person. Joy is nurtured and then fills the rooms of our heart with light, often when we need it the most.
Christmas reminds us that we were made to create spaces between us and others where joy can abound. When we welcome the stranger, include those who are different than us, make peace with our enemies, and open our table to people who would not normally sit and laugh with us, we make sure that no one misses out on this most beautiful gift: Joy.
This season may we be those who see and include our neighbours in the hope, peace, love, and joy that this time of year brings. May we discover that as we give the gift of joy to others, we feed the joy growing in us. May you have a very joy-filled and Merry Christmas.