I ask for forgiveness….this is, strictly speaking, a Christmas carol.  I know it is May, but we are in strange times, and I felt a little joy was needed. As I read over the original post, I realized that when I wrote it, I had no way of knowing how much I would need to put my thoughts at the time, into action right now. We celebrate joy in the Christmas season with vigor.  It is everywhere.  But, what we do with that joy the rest of the year, or when things are not so obviously tailored to encourage it, is telling of how deeply we understand the meaning of the word.  Joy is the tiny flame deep within that allows us to find the light we need when things are dim, as much as it is the spectacle of a brilliant sunset, easily seen in our view.  It is what we give; what we receive; what we seek and what we can discover.  It isn’t superficial or always easy to find.  But it exists.  Always.


We have looked for hope, considered peace and are now set to experience joy.  Or, rather, we are told that we are in a joyous season. We are inundated with joyful music, images and endless explanations on how to make our holidays cheery – from how we decorate to how we wrap our gifts, dress ourselves and plan our various parties and gatherings.  We are meant to be fully engaged in the happiest time of the year.  Easier said than done.

The impending birth of this baby is meant to bring great joy.  The significance, for those of the Christian faith, is immense – obviously something to celebrate.  The ideals represented by this child’s life, even for those who may not hold these specific religious beliefs, can be powerful – selfless and unconditional love, kindness and justice for all, treating the least of us as the most valued of treasures.  These are indeed ideals for which we should rejoice.

The words of this very old carol, originally from a 14thcentury chant, speak to our seasonal joy.

Resonet in laudibus cum iucundis plausibus
Sion cum fidelibus, Apparuit quem genuit Maria.

Let praises resound with joyful applause,
Zion with the faithful: He has appeared who was borne of Mary.

There are many poetic translations of these words, and many variants used with this tune.  I found this English version, by an unknown author, in the United Church of Canada’s hymnal.

Joy is now in every place,
Christmas lightens every face;
now be with us, in your grace,
O hear us, bless us, holy Jesus.

May the star that shone that night,
making your poor stable bright,
fill our hearts with love and light,
O hear us, bless us, holy Jesus.

Through the New Year let it stay,
leading us upon your way,
making Christmas every day,
O hear us, bless us, holy Jesus.

Now and ever may we find
your good news to fill our minds:
peace and love to humankind,
O hear us, bless us, holy Jesus.

What I appreciate about this particular interpretation, is its directive to fill our hearts with love and light throughout the year.  The ideals of Christmas are meaningless if they only appear for this short season.  They are meaningless if they are not lived every day.  I know this has been said many times, in many ways, in many songs, in many cards.  But it remains elusive.  I sometimes marvel at the extent of the advertising at this time of year encouraging us to donate to our favourite charity.  I assume it is because people are in a generous mood, and organizations need to benefit from this reality.  But why is that?  Do we not care for those less fortunate, those in need the rest of the year?  Would the elderly not enjoy visits or concerts in July?  Do children stop eating in February?

Advent is a season of anticipation.  The celebration of the concept of joy is about what this anticipation promises.  We are joyful because there is hope.  We are joyful because we can make peace happen. Joy is not merely a superficial feeling of excitement or happiness in the short-term, it is a deep recognition of who we are and, consequently, what we have to give and what we are able to receive.  If I am able to give something that brings another soul some peace, surely that is worthy of intense joy.  If I am able to receive the hope that someone else offers, my joy – be it obvious or hidden beneath the weight of life – will begin to simmer.  Its tiny light brightening whatever stable I find myself in.  This kind of joy isn’t about sparkles and glitter. It is about understanding that we are one.  We are stumbling through this world together, bumping into each other and all the circumstances that we encounter.  But each little flame of joy we contain, lights the way for those around us, and for ourselves.

So applaud joyfully. Enjoy this season throughout the year. Sing loudly and give generously – of your time, your love and your joy.  And if you are unable, for whatever reason, to find your joy, listen to those beside you.  Feel their light warming your stable until you can find your own.

Resonet in laudibus.