Tuesday, December 19, 2017



Are there any of us who don't want Happiness, or to live in Joy? I hope not. In the Christmas season we are told 'great joy' is offered to us by God. The traditional 'church' slant on this was that in Jesus, we were finally freed from the power of sin that had condemned all of humanity since Adam and Eve. I don't know about you, but that's hardly a inspiring or hopeful message. Any God that has that kind of vindictive streak hardly inspires joy.
I know many people who have left any faith in God because, as they reason, there can't be a God worth their belief, when there's so much suffering and imperfection in the world. They assume that God has to be an all-powerful 'fixer and doer', making sure that all is perfect and in the proper and holy order. Example: “How could God have allowed that drunk to run his car up on the sidewalk and kill my sister?” Each of us can change that question in our experience and find good reason to quit the whole concept of hope in any idea of God.
Many of us cling to an assumption that God will make everything alright 'in the end'. It's like the lies we hear from the Self Improvement folks, that if we just stick with things, they'll eventually work out. NOT. We all can't be best-seller authors, billionaires or rock stars. Not that we should give up on our dreams, but it doesn't take many smarts to see that 'joy' of any kind is not a matter of just trying harder or longer. Things keep changing, but they surely don't always 'work out in the end', either by God's or our doing. But do we just give up on the whole concept of Joy? Maybe the birth narratives will give us a clue.
Maybe Joy comes in searching for God (Love) in the small and ordinary, even in the birth of a baby. Maybe Joy is always surrounding us, singing to us from the hills and stars, even amidst the suffering. Maybe Joy can be found with great searchings, as is shown by the 'Wise Men'. Or perhaps is finds us when we're just doing our jobs, as did the shepherds. The birth narratives don't ignore the fact of evil: the Roman Empire has the power to move us around and bring death to the innocent. But even the most poor and 'unclean' (the shepherds) can hear and see the power of the message of joy. The story doesn't say that everything worked out fine for them, only that they knew that Joy had come, and was a gift from God. But they were still shepherds.
If we're expecting life to be more easy and free of pain and grief, don't look to God to change it. Life on this planet is a matter of luck, as well as hard work. But it is a lot easier and worthwhile if we are open to Joy. This is the gift we can search for, find, and share. But it usually isn't in the places we search. Not in riches or power. It's in the smallest and even most familiar. Even a new birth.
Instead of setting ourselves up for failure by expecting Joy to knock us over with huge events and winnings, let's begin to be more open in the joys we can find and share in the common, understanding that all around is infused with the holy. If the shepherds and wandering strangers can hear, see and find Joy, so can we all.

In this season for searching, and Joy,


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