We’ve probably all heard the expression happiness isn’t a destination but a journey and at some point we have probably also heard that we should find the joy in the journey.
We hear that faith is a journey as well.
At this time of year we may also hear that Christmas is the season of joy as we journey towards Bethlehem. Maybe you recall with fondness like I do The Muppet’s Christmas Carol where all the Muppets tell us in song that this is the season to be jolly and joyous.
And many of us struggle with this, especially this year.
After a year like 2020 many of us are wondering how can we find jolly? What joy? Perhaps like Cindy Lou Who you are asking , “Where are you Christmas, why can’t I find you?” She ends her song in the movie adaptation of Dr Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas by asking, “Did Christmas change, or just me?”
We have faced many challenges this year. We have seen financial struggles. Struggles with restrictions that are for the greater good but leave us feeling trapped.
Struggles with illness and struggles with the loss of loved ones. This struggle has been intensified by the inability to be with our loved ones in hospitals and nursing homes and not being able to say our good byes as we would expect to be able to.
In the midst of all of these struggles how can we possibly find joy this season?
Advent is the journey of reflection as we look towards the coming light in the manger. A reminder of hope.
A promise that during happy times and bad we are never alone. We are loved beyond measure no matter what. We are celebrated in our successes and help up and supported in our struggles.
I think one of the biggest misunderstandings we have as Christians is the idea that having joy in all things means we need to always be happy. Despite our circumstances. I don’t believe this is humanly possible and if God had intended for us to be always happy why would there be a need for any other emotions?
Instead I believe the key to having a Christian life that is well lived is we need to be able to embrace all of our emotions. Express all of the different ways they make us feel. And feel the loving presence of God in the midst of all of them.
We are allowed to be angry at a situation.
We are allowed to be sad and lament our losses.
We are meant to grieve.
What should set us apart as Christians is the certain hope that even though we feel all of these things, we are still God’s beloved. He is walking with us on the good days and the bad.
I saw a quote this week on Facebook that is attributed to St. Francis de Sales:
Do not fear what may happen tomorrow. The same loving Father who cares for you today will care for you tomorrow and everyday. Either he will shield you from suffering or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace then and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginings.-St. Francis de Sales
In other words, you are not alone.
Advent reminds us that we are on a journey together with a God who loves us enough to send his own Son down to make right the relationship between God and his human children. No matter what we face we will be supported by the Father and guided by the Spirit. We have the promise of joy.
Joy isn’t an emotion in this sense, but a state of mind and being. The certainty that we are never alone.
It comes from accepting our beloved-ness and knowing we are a Child of God and allowing us to feel His presence with us in all of our emotions.
So maybe you aren’t feeling the holiday spirit this year. That is okay. Be kind to yourself and do what you feel you can do right now in this moment. If that is nothing, that is perfectly okay.
You may have also heard the first Christmas was a pretty simple one. Ours can be to.
Maybe you have the energy to go full out holiday cheer and do all the things we see on the Hallmark channel. Or maybe you are tired and weary and just making it through each day is what you can do.
Be kind to yourself this holiday season.
Give yourself and those around you the gift of grace. Acknowledge that we are each doing the best we can in this time and season of our lives.
Our Christmas tree is finally fully decorated. As I look at it I see a progression of memories. Memories from early years, and memories from the journey I am on with my own little family.
It is a journey filled with good times, but also filled with many trials and tribulations. This tree is a reminder that through it all, we were never alone.
Our journeys are filled with so many different things. All of it helps us become the people we are today. All of it is part of both our collective and our individual journeys.
This advent my prayer for each of us is that we can find the true joy that comes from knowing we are loved beyond measure no matter how we are feeling.
This advent I pray we are all able to find the joy that will help sustain each of us on this journey through life.
O come, O come, Emmanual!
We are waiting in hope.
We are accepting in faith.
We are journeying in joy.