It was just after the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, and we were wedged into the lobby a crowd coming in for the next performance. His voice was soft and reflective.
“Maybe,” he said, “I need a little more joy in my life.”
Joy is the theme of the third Sunday of Advent, a moment past hope and embracing possibility. Joy is not the denial of heartbreak or the absence of suffering. Joy is that subtle awareness that slips past mere pleasure or happiness to attentiveness to goodness and beauty in creation. It is being able to see the miracle that life is….to smile at the antics of a child or capture the colors of sunrise in heart of hearts. Joy is communicable: it is the smile that makes a difference, the caring touch that dissipates confusion. Joy is the magic of old friends and the freshness of a newborn, the warmth of a home and the wildness of the ocean.
Joy is a motivator. It is simultaneously intrinsic and extrinsic, and it is undeniably contagious. It is neither drug-induced nor ignorant of harsh realities. Instead, Joy has a harbor deep in the soul and the heart of human beings. Joy is an invitation to believe more deeply, to explore more fully, and to trust that in spite of everything, there is more to human experience than grief, loss, pain and suffering. More than an antidote, Joy is a presence that animates the soul and the person. It balances the harshness and illuminates the darkest spaces. It is tender and compassionate and bids each of us to be more. It has depths and roots in experience and memory, and so it is more than fitting that so many different types of circumstances are reminders to celebrate the goodness of humanity, the growth of human persons and the possibilities that lie within every one of us.
Born of beholding, Joy gifts the world with courage to define each day anew and the desire to live goodness in every aspect of being. Joy means trusting in the goodness of self and others, recognizing, encouraging and nurturing that. Joy, on this third Sunday of Advent, believes in the best of human hearts and the kindness and generosity of a tender and loving God.