The eleven28 Advent Podcast is brought to you in partnership with Missio Alliance.
If happiness is a candy bar, then joy is a dark chocolate souffle. If happiness is camping in your backyard, then joy is a night in the Grand Canyon. If happiness is wishing on a dandelion as you blow its cottony seeds into the wind, joy is daffodils blooming through early spring snowstorms.
Joy is complex and nuanced. Joy is an experience as much as an emotion, an opportunity as well as a memory. Human beings cannot manufacture joy. Joy is evidence of the Spirit of God, a gift given freely that requires a response. The season of Advent invites us to hold this dissonant chord for an entire week: Joy is a present moment choice that is informed by the past and sets the trajectory for the future.
Isaiah 12:2-6 describes the complexity of a beloved people of rescued slaves in exile again, looking forward to a different future.
12:2 Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the LORD GOD is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation.
12:3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.
12:4 And you will say in that day: Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known his deeds among the nations; proclaim that his name is exalted.
12:5 Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth.
12:6 Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.
Similarly, Advent invites us to remember what God has done in the past, sending Jesus, while believing that the kingdom is already and not yet. We hold past present and future together all at the same time.
Picture yourself as a young child. Remember your height and see the world from that height again. Perhaps unable to reach doorknobs or countertops. Remember your favorite color and toys. Remember your comfort items, maybe a toy or blanket that gave you security. Let these details take hold in your mind.
Imagine yourself in 20 years. Picture the shape of your body, the color of your hair, your physical capabilities and limitations. Imagine what wisdom will live in your very bones. What new technology will exist? Where could you be living? Let your imagination create a scenario; there is nothing binding about imagining so let your imagination run wild.
Picture yourself, as you are now, sitting with your younger self and older self. Perhaps you are sharing a meal or enjoying nature together. What does each part of you have to teach the others? How does oldest you feela bout youngest you? How does youngest you feel about you now?
Imagine how each experiences and expresses joy. Locate the joy in each body. Feel how it moves through time and space.
Journal here with these thoughts and experiences.
May the joy of the one who came near remind you that he is coming again and even now.