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Learning to See Joy Even When It’s in Short Supply

When Joy Doesn’t Come Easy

There are many in our midst who experience very little in the way of joy during the Advent and Christmas season.  Some experience this dearth as a temporary loss.  While others seem to know only pain during a season in which so many others know the abundance of joy.  The pain that so many of our neighbors feel is often associated with a loss.  For many of us experiencing loss can lead to feelings of depression.  While I’ve not experienced it personally, people with whom I’ve counseled during the Christmas season find it hard to reconcile the joy of others with the pain they feel.  Most don’t want to be in this position, they simply don’t know another way to be.  While we lament their position, we are not powerless bystanders.  Woven into the fabric of the Christmas story is a vision to guide us.

Born In a Promise

Jesus was born into a world of conflict and oppression.  His world knew advancement, wealth and power (to be certain).  However, these possibilities were found only in places of privilege; common folks often knew only pain, loss and fear.  For us, Jesus’ birth represents the fulfillment of a promise.  God had promised Israel God’s eternal presence.  God would come to be more than a mere presence.  Through the gift of presence God would also work for justice.  The people who had been marginalized by the abuses of those who had power would be redeemed, restored and made new.  The folks who had only known pain, loss and isolation would know new life and new possibility.  From the humblest of beginnings, Jesus would live a life that would bring hope to hungry and hurting people.  God’s promise had been fulfilled.

An Incarnate Hope and An Experienced Joy

This is where we come in.  In relationship to people who have difficulty experiencing joy during the Christmas season we can live the hope of God’s promise. In the birth of Christ we bear the promise of God’s restoration to people who live in despair at the margins.  No matter the source of pain or loss that our neighbors feel, the promise carried within Christ’s birth is for them.  Not only was this hope incarnate in Jesus, it can and should be incarnate in us.  When we are present with people in pain, we bear the promise of God.  Through the act of sharing love and compassion with those in need we live the promise of new life.  The wonderful part of this is that in many cases we don’t have to say or do anything out of the ordinary.  For some we would serve its enough to show up and be present.  When hope is present, joy is possible.