We’ve been at this a while, and I’m feeling the need for cheerful things.  Spring flowers help.  As do memories of wonderful experiences and chats with friends; walks in the fresh spring air, watching a bit of theatre or a concert from our living rooms.  It is simply too difficult to carry the weight of our situation at all times.  It is a challenge not to take in the information we are being given every day, the grim statistics.  The good decisions, the poor decisions; the wise and the foolish.  And, while it appears we are entering a phase of cautious optimism, there is still much concern about how this will end, how we will slowly resume our lives.

As I flipped through my hymnal today, I came across this lovely tune.  It is based on a soprano aria from Bach’s Cantata No. 68, and is full of cheer.  The original words are joyful and merry.

Mein gläubiges Herze,
frohlocke, sing, scherze,
dein Jesus ist da!
Weg Jammer, weg Klagen, 
ich will euch nur sagen:
mein Jesus ist nah.

My faithful heart,
rejoice, sing, be merry,
your Jesus is here!
Away with sorrow, away with lamentation
I shall just say to you:
my Jesus is close.

The words in the modified hymn are similar with some additions.  Written in 1888 by William G. Tarrant, they incorporate some incredible imagery to encourage our merriment – our recognition of the beauty that surrounds us.  Tarrant was a Unitarian minister, but began as a silversmith and metal worker.  It seems to me that someone with those particular skills would be inclined to notice and be inspired by that which is beautiful.  To understand its value.

With happy voices singing,
Thy children, Lord, appear;
Their joyous praises bringing
In anthems full and clear;
For skies of golden splendor,
For azure rolling sea,
For blossoms sweet tender,
O Lord, we worship Thee.

Both sets of words, as I read them, have a common thread.  A sense that it is our charge to notice something.  Our faithful heart can rejoice in what it sees. Listening to voices in song can evoke the vision of the splendour of the skies, the azure of the sea, and the sweetness of the blossoms that we are currently surrounded by.  We can be filled with gratitude, and we can be joyful.  In fact, I wonder if our choice to embrace the merriment found in these simple pleasures is precisely what we need to rise above a circumstance that we can do little about.

Of course, all of this is easy to say. It is easy to read a few words and listen to a few notes and have a moment of cheer.  It is more difficult to choose to live in our darkest hours as though we are merry and celebrating.  There is much to mourn, there are many losses.  There are minutes, hours and days that feel as though they are covered by clouds heavy with potential storms, with gloomy weight.  But amid these realities, there are countless examples of slivers of sunshine  that can be found, if we choose to notice.  Perhaps they are simply things we tuck away in our memories for when we can better enjoy them and join in.  Perhaps they are simply reminders that beyond our heaviness there is joy.  Perhaps they are simply ideas that we will ponder when we are able.

Wherever we find ourselves, we are surrounded by cheer.  It is there.  When we see it and feel it, and when we do not.  When we wake in the morning and are weary and feel as though we haven’t slept, the seas are still the bluest of blues. When we tire of the monotony of our unusual routines, the sunsets still blaze with colour.  When we find ourselves alone in a silent room, the children’s voices still sing with merriment.  These things are as real as anything else.  Look for this cheer – take it in and save it for your rainy days.  This is a kind of faith that we need right now.

Remember these joys.  And then, celebrate and be merry.