By Bishop Todd Townshend
“Be steadfast in faith, joyful in hope, and untiring in love all the days of your life . . .”
These words begin an Advent blessing that has always given me a sense of calm joy, for some reason or another. In it, we welcome the blessing of God, and we pray that God will make us steadfast in faith, joyful in hope, and untiring in love. The key to having steadfast faith and untiring love is found in the middle—the blessing of being made joyful in hope.
Joy is one of the words that we expect to see and hear in this season. It is a season that leads to our song, “Joy to the world the Lord has come”!
In this season we will write to people and wish them joy. In the preparations of this season, we will do all that can to decorate, and shop, and cook, and clean, with the hope that we might bring others—and maybe even ourselves—a little joy.
Sometimes it doesn’t come. Especially if we are the types who have an acute sense of the world’s need. There is a distinct lack of joy in many of us these days, and the world can feel a lot less joyful after the grief caused by the pandemic, by war, by angry polarization, by personal troubles.
We need a little joy, and it can be hard to find. Joy isn’t something you can go out and purchase nor can you generate it internally. Joy isn’t something that comes with an “on” switch. Joy is often a surprise before it is a delight. Like faith and love, it is a gift.
The words of the Advent blessing may give us a hint about the situations into which joy may come and surprise us; the important word might be “in”. Steadfast IN faith, joyful IN hope, untiring IN love. Joy comes when we are in the state of “hope” and hope is something that can only be found when the troubles of life are put together with the gracious presence of God in Christ.
This is a season of song and prayer. I am going to be singing and praying that you will be able to do THE hopeful act: to bring all our troubles to God. To simply warm to the presence of God in silent prayer and to set your troubles and the troubles of the world on the ground next to Jesus, the Risen One.
I will be praying that he will come to you, that he will reach out to you, that you will allow yourself to be held in his embrace, and that you will recognize that God is joyful in this encounter. There is more joy in heaven...!!
When the healing work is done, the Holy Spirit of God will activate a new hope in you, and your gifts will come alive again, ready to be given, ready to be the gift that brings hope to someone else. In that hope, may you all know joy.