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Reflection

Surprised by Joy 

“Always be joyful;

pray continually;

and for all things give thanks: this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”

(1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18)     

 

‘Surprised by Joy’ is a book title of English writer and lay theologian C S Lewis for the first part of his autobiography. The title was taken from a line in a poem by William Wordsworth about a moment of happiness experienced in a time of loss and grief.

Joy is an important part of our recent Feast of the Nativity celebrations, when it is mixed with wonder that the promised God-with-us (Emmanuel) became flesh with a human nature. In Luke’s gospel we recall the angels heralding the birth of Jesus Christ to the shepherds. Surprised, if not stunned by the heavenly hosts, the shepherds hastened to a stable to find a baby lying in a manger. Their response was to glorify and praise God for all they had heard and seen. (Luke 2:20)

Surprised too, were the Magi on their journey eastwards following a star. In Matthew 2:10 we learn that “the star filled them with delight” and they fell on their knees in homage when they saw the child with his mother Mary in a house in Bethlehem.

Joy is a gift of the Holy Spirit and a manifestation of God-with-us. It is also a choice; something we need to be open to, even to be surprised by, when things are tough, unexpected and difficult.

So too in this Australian summer of Omicron, La Nina and disrupted plans and get-togethers,  I am reminded in 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 about being joyful and linking this with prayer and thanks for all things. We are to assume joy almost as an outer garment and ‘to count our blessings’ as the saying goes. Both are intentional and to be accompanied by prayer. Our joy can sustain others who are struggling with the challenges of this time.  Joy conveys faith and hope.

“Joy, beautiful spark of Divinity” is the first line of the original English lyrics to the anthem ‘Ode to Joy’ and that’s quite a gift to keep on giving.

Liz Stone, NCCA General Secretary

 

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