Saturday, December 12, 2015

Rejoice Always

"A Light Beneath the Darkness"
- At the Desert Retreat House -

This Sunday many Christians across the globe will light the third candle of four on the Advent wreath. This “rose” colored candle is brighter than the others, a symbol of joy. In fact, many churches will read from a well known scripture passage written by St. Paul who says:

Rejoice in the Lord always!
I say it again, rejoice in any and all circumstances of life.

My guess is that many will light that candle of joy and listen to this passage without thinking much about it – after all, lighting candles and talking about joy is sort of a nice “Christmasy” thing to do. And there will certainly be others who will not be in a church this Sunday who may think it’s all sort of “pie in the sky” to tell people to rejoice always, in every circumstance of life.” 

What about people who have just received a diagnosis of cancer, people who suffer from debilitating disease or feel abandoned in old-age, should they rejoice? Or how about the guy who just lost his job or the couple getting a divorce, rejoice in these circumstances?  And then what about all the darkness and terror in the world at this “holiday season” – bombings and mass shootings, threats of a terrorist plot in your own backyard - rejoice always? Really?

The problem is that there is a big difference between having joy in life and feeling happy, and most of the time we don’t understand this distinction.  So of course it sounds like silly “pie in the sky” advice to suggest we should “whistle a happy tune” when the boss calls us in with the
news that we no longer have a job.

The other day I happened to be in a local jewelry store and a man standing next to me was debating whether or not he should purchase a diamond bracelet as a Christmas present for his wife. Of course, the clerk encouraged him to go ahead and buy it: it will make her so happy. When I heard this I had a sudden flash of insight about the difference between being happy and being joyful. My guess is that the diamond bracelet might cause the man’s wife to be happy but it certainly won’t guarantee that she will know joy in her life.

People feel happy when something happens that makes them happy but joy is always an experience that always lies beneath the surface of life.

When we can honestly believe that in all the circumstances of life, Love abides and Love is stronger than hate, when we can believe that, while “God” doesn’t fix all the mess in life, “God” does abide in it all, then we can be joyful. We may not be happy, but we can be joyful.

When we honestly believe that we are connected to the universe and come what may, we will always belong to one another, we have one another to walk walk side by side with us on our journey, then we can be joyful. We may not be happy, but we can be joyful and therefore live confidently and courageously in all the circumstances of our life.

Spiritual author, Eckhart Tolle, once offered this insightful piece of wisdom:

The love and joy underneath the pain is freedom, salvation, enlightenment.

Joy always lies beneath the surface. When we know joy we know freedom.

Henri Nouwen once said:
Joy does not simply happen to us,
We have to choose joy and choose it everyday.

Today I choose to embrace joy in all the circumstances of life.

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