If you light an Advent wreath during this season, today is the day to light the JOY candle. Advent is an ancient season, but it’s not scriptural. And JOY is definitely a later addition to a practice that was, initially, one of fasting and repentance. “Gaudete” is the Latin beginning of one of the readings for today, from Philippians 4: “REJOICE in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Whether you observe Advent or not, meditating on joy seems like one of those things that is always appropriate. Poet Mary Oliver:
“If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,don’t hesitate.
Give in to it. There are plenty
of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
to be. We are not wise, and not very often
kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world. It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the
case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.”
So, here are a few joyful things from my life right now:
- These gingerbread people I baked:
2. The little kid at yesterday’s garden potluck who, upon discovering that his hot dog was one of the sneaky, mixed in ones that had nacho cheese in the center, grinned the biggest grin I’ve seen in a while. He turned to his dad and then to me to say “I GOT THE CHEESE ONE!” Then he yelled at each of his friends by name to tell them the same thing. (This was real, pure, unadulterated joy in itself, made all the better by the fact that mixing up the nacho cheese dogs in with the regular dogs was – I thought – an unfortunate mistake on my part as I prepared the meal. Turns out, my mistake led directly to big kid joy.)
3. This paper white from the farmer’s market blooming slowly and delicately on my coffee table:
4. Playing Muriel Knickerbocker, a wind suit-wearing, mall-walking retired lunch lady who solves crimes with her fellow retired book club ladies in a tiny town in the Northeast in a role-playing game named “Murder Mavens.” This week, someone was killed by Christmas-light strangulation, and we narrowly escaped being arrested for interfering with an active crime scene investigation.
5. Donating hand-me-down furniture and buying this brand new chair (aside from my Ikea bed and mattress in a box, pretty sure this is the only brand new piece of furniture I’ve ever bought myself), which arrives on Thursday and in which I will immediately curl up with a good book. It’s GREEN!
6. Putting on sandals for yesterday’s walk on the American Tobacco Trail with Fran. The weird weather (climate change is not joyful, but sandal-wearing is) meant that I froze my fingers off in the garden on Wednesday but happily walked bare-toed in 73 degree temperatures yesterday.
7. Group text messages and Marco Polos and email dispatches that show up in my notifications and offer tiny little glimpses of daily joy arriving in other peoples’ lives: a tiny cousin singing an old camp song, kiddos crafting ornaments and gingerbread houses, a reference to a decades’ old college inside joke, more people watching silly Christmas movies, etc., etc., etc.
8: This song, stuck in my head: