Happy eleventh day of Christmas, Y’all? Are your decorations still up? I have to admit that I took mine down this weekend, except for the nativity scene I keep out all year round. If you haven’t put it all away yet, pick a special piece and leave it out all year as a reminder to remember and be re-membered in the coming of Jesus every day.
On the eleventh day of Christmas, Yahweh gives to us: Joy.
Of all the themes of Advent and Christmas, Joy has been the most challenging to talk about this year. So much of what we label ‘joy’ has been challenging if not impossible. Gathering with family and friends to celebrate has been limited or even nonexistent as we’ve worked together to curtail the spread of COVID19 and protect the most vulnerable among us. The emotional atmosphere of this country is one of anger and we are seeing lots of shaking fists in a time we are not able to shake hands or hug.
Many of us have not been able to gather in person with our faith communities to sing “Joy to the World” at the top of our lungs.
It seems so insensitive to speak of joy under the collective weight of 350,000+ deaths and the prediction of additional surges in the weeks to come.
And yet, Joy remains. Like the tiny flicker of the smallest candle flame in a dark room, it can’t be extinguished.
The message of Joy proclaimed by the angels in the story of Christmas isn’t contained in wrapping paper and bows. It doesn’t hang shimmering from a tree or arrive by post or sit on a platter smothered in icing and sprinkles.
It is important to distinguish between what is meant by joy and by happiness. Happiness is something we seek, something external to us: We are promised by advertisers the the next gadget or car or job or person will make us happy, that it will be better than what we have now and better has to mean happier, right? Happiness is fleeting because there will always be the next ‘better’ thing or person or job that we don’t have.
Joy is different. Joy is internal and eternal. The gift of Joy, regardless of the circumstances in which we find ourselves, comes from God. It is the message that God is at work in this world through us and our willingness to follow Jesus in the Way of Love. It is the message that we are never forgotten, never rejected, never condemned.
The message of Joy doesn’t deny the pain and suffering we face in this world. The Good News message of Joy says that God is with us always, in the good and the bad times, in the celebrations and in grief, loving us as we are, comforting us, encouraging us, empowering us to love.
So, on this eleventh day of Christmas, sing Joy to the World at the top of your voice. Let that small flicker of a tiny candle flame flare up and light the whole house. Hear God say, “I am with you always.”
Joy to the world, the Lord is come. Is come. Not ‘will’ or ‘has’ but ‘is’. God is with us. Sing and celebrate.