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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Third Sunday of Advent: Joy!

Copyright © 2014
by Ralph F. Couey

This time of the year is commonly referred to as “the season of joy.” There are so many things that shape that context. Nature has shed the riotous colors of autumn and gone into dormancy, covering the landscape in dreary browns and bare branches. Thus we await with great excitement the first snows of winter that return to the world a delightful artistry. The weather has turned colder, so we are not outside very often. So we make a special effort to spend time with friends under the guise of holiday parties. Mostly, though, we know we are approaching a time when our families will once again gather from across town, across the state, across the country, or across the oceans. For a precious few days, our houses will be crowded with laughter while the mists of memory drift among us.

A tree has been set up and decorated. As the days go by, brightly-colored packages begin to populate the once-empty space at the bottom. There is a happiness, yes. But there is also a growing sense of anticipation towards that early morning when children will race from their slumbers, impatiently urging grownups, still brushing sleep from their eyes and bravely understanding that today, at least, the coffee’s gonna have to wait.

To watch children opening presents on Christmas morning is to see joy. It can be a difficult thing to define, much like love. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words. Their meanings can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart.”

There is a difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is a process; the path we walk enroute to joy. Joy is perhaps defined as a mountain top emotion. It never lasts long, but the intensity of that experience, and the elements that brought it into being, will stay with us forever.

Think about the times that have brought you joy. Christmas morning as a child. Winning a championship. Personal achievement, like graduation. The breathless moment with That Question hanging in the air when she finally said “yes.”

The birth of, not just any baby, but your baby. The first goal, home run, touchdown. The school concert, play, debate. Their graduation. The day they marry. And the day they place that grandchild in your arms.

For centuries, the Jewish people hoped for the arrival of the one they called Messiah. When he arrived, it was the fulfillment of prophecy, a promise kept. On that night in the stable, two young parents shared the joy of their first child, and the wonder that he was not only their son, but also the son of God.

I think it is the anticipation that separates happiness from joy. We hope for so much in this world, and we look forward to that time when Christ will return and bring His kingdom of love and peace with Him. It will be the day when the greatest present of all will be opened. Just as we experience the hope and happiness in the weeks leading up to Christmas, people back then experienced the hope and happiness of Christ’s arrival. And on that day, when we gather ‘round the tree, we will remember the night that Kings, shepherds, and Magi gathered ‘round the manger…

And lived that joy.

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