As I strive to compose this blog on Joy, I admit that I have no fully-developed theological treatise on the subject – only observations and wonderings.
In fact, my first observation is that it is psychology instead of theology that would most adequately speak to the subject. (Since I am not a psychologist, I’ll have to continue with my few observations and many wonderings.)
Is there such a thing as “inner Joy” that is a constant part of life, always with us – or is Joy something we surprisingly experience only on particularly happy occasions? Or is it both?
I’m typing this while eating breakfast at McDonald’s, and am also wondering if everyone experiences Joy. I’m surrounded by persons from every conceivable culture and personal circumstance: from the woman who is talking loudly “to herself” or to someone she is imagining, to the student at a computer with headphones, to the person shuffling by in ragged clothes and the hurried, well-dressed business persons. Do all of these diverse people experience Joy? I hope so, as I think the idea of an “inner Joy” might be one of those things that help us all survive – knowing that there is a “reserve” of Joy that is just below the surface – with the ability to come to our rescue and pull us out of the depths.
That brings me to another wondering – do we choose Joy? Since the Church has organized Advent to progress through Hope, Peace, Joy and Love, it seems like we do (whether we really can, or not). We choose for the Third Sunday of Advent to be full of Joy. At Pullen this Sunday, we choose it to be the day to hear the Chancel Choir express the unbridled happiness of Mary’s “Magnificat!” and the highest praise of the Angels’ “Gloria in Excelsis Deo!” We’ll hear these expressed by magnificent voices with the accompaniment of brass choir and pipe organ, timpani and cymbal, snare drum, xylophone, and bells. The sanctuary will be filled with sounds of Joy.
As a minister who assists in the design of weekly worship, I realize that on any given Sunday, worshipers come with a multitude of differing experiences and emotions. Though we choose a Sunday for Hope, not everyone comes hopefully. Though we chose a Sunday for Peace, not everyone comes with peace. Though we choose a Sunday for Joy, there are some for whom it will be difficult to find. So perhaps the best we can do is to remind one another of these things through worship. My seminary worship professor, Donald Hustad, exclaimed it best: “worship is a rehearsal for life.”
I can’t explain Joy, but hope that during this season and beyond you can find some within yourself, and also help others experience it. A vibrant glimpse of it will be provided among your friends this coming Advent Sunday at Pullen. Let’s rehearse Joy together! ☺
-Larry E. Schultz, Minister of Music