In the traditional church calendar we are currently in the season of Advent – those 4 weeks leading up to Christmas Day – and the Advent theme for this week is noted as “Joy.”
For many people, the Christmas season is naturally a joyful one (for others, not quite so much, we know that too.) But the very first Christmas was in fact quite a joyful event. In Luke 2 we read about an angel of God appearing in the night sky to announce the birth of Jesus to some shepherds. The angel says:
“Do not be afraid! I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.” (Luke 2:10-14)
Joy indeed. Joy – or happiness – is a funny thing. We tend to think that when we have enough good things in our lives (when we have the stuff we need or want, when we have the relationships we need or want) then we’ll be happy. But it doesn’t typically work that way. David Steindl-Rast, a modern-day Benedictine monk says it well: “The root of joy is gratefulness. It is not joy that makes us grateful, it is gratitude that makes us joyful.”
I don’t know where this Christmas season finds you, in terms of feeling like things are going well for you or not. But I know we could ALL use MORE JOY in our lives. The kind of joy that connects us to the heart and the love and the bigger, deeper truths of God, above and beyond any circumstances. And so we want to spend a few minutes today in the practice of naming goodness – knowing that engaging in that exercise will naturally, eventually amplify gratitude in us.
So if you can, right now, grab something you can write on. Any old scrap of paper will do, this isn’t something you’re going to frame and put on the wall. You can use a notebook, a notes app on your phone, just any place you can scribble some things down.
We’re going to take a moment to pause and consider how very many things we DO have in our lives that are GOOD right now. Even if a bunch of stuff is hard and junky… what are the other things that are bright? Big things, little things… the breath in your lungs, the sun in the sky, your best friend, a favourite memory. Let’s stop for a moment, open our eyes wide, and try to name everything good that we can see. As each thing comes to your mind, jot it down.
Now I said we wouldn’t frame it on the wall, but you COULD put that list somewhere that you’ll see it in the week ahead, to remind yourself when the going gets tough, of all the good things that are also all around. In fact it’s a great practice to keep adding to the list, to make this a regular habit, naming goodness often, daily, in order to keep re-aligning our hearts and minds and spirits to the ever-present goodness of God.