3rd Sunday of Advent: Joy

7 Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. 9 Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!

10 Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

James 5:7-10, New International Version

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?

From The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

One year at Christmas time when I was still living with my parents, my uncle invited me and my parents to a Christmas pageant at his church. It wasn’t a church I (or my parents) would normally attend, but both my uncle and my cousin were in it, so we decided to go.

It was snowing, if I remember right. I was a bundled-up ball of depression in the back seat of my parent’s car. I wasn’t sure why I was depressed at the time. There were a lot of things going on for me emotionally during that winter. I am also prone to clinical depression every so often. We pulled into the church parking lot, trudge through the New England snow, and found a spot in one of the pews.

I do remember the church being beautifully decorated and the lovingly made costumes being really well done, but outside of that I couldn’t tell you much about the pageant except for the moment where someone (an adult) dressed as an angel came out to sing “O Holy Night!.”

And somehow, the voice cut through my sorrow and filled me with a joy so intense, I cried. The light of Spirit came through and lifted me up and through the sorrow that was in me. All I remember is that I could see a bright white light and hear the voice of the singer. It was so beautiful, so joyful, that the tears streamed down my face, and I really didn’t care if anyone else noticed.

The Holy Spirit was in that room, made possible by a living prophet whose voice carried me into a realm so beautiful that even now it makes me tear up. Nothing else mattered in that moment except that I was seeing the joy of God.

I don’t remember the rest of the pageant. I do remember that when I went to bed that night I cried out all my sorrow because I knew that there was joy.

Abundant, beautiful, plentiful joy.

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