Pastoral Series

Prayer: Joy

   I think my favorite hour of the entire year will happen again this Wednesday. Our friends from UMAR gather in Jubilee Hall for a Christmas party that includes gathering around the piano and singing Christmas carols – wearing funny hats and bells. You don’t really know Christmas music until you sing it with adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The sheer glee, the joyful abandon, the giddy delight is a wonder to behold.

We don’t use songsheets. We don’t need them either. We sing the songs we know by heart. I love that phrase: “by heart.” These are the songs that reside deep in the heart. They are woven into the very fiber of our being. How good of God to create the world and us where this would be a thing! “Joy to the world!” – and joy resonates in even a Scrooge’s heart. “All of the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names” – and even as we recall being wounded, or noticing others who are wounded, we know he’s the one with the red nose who matters in the end. “Dashing through the snow in a one horse open sleigh” – and even though I’ve never set foot in a sleigh, I feel I’m off on a bracing journey to somewhere fun. “I’ll be home for Christmas” – and I yearn for home, or even feel at home singing with others who also yearn for home.

Jean Vanier tells the story of the day he was meeting with a donor to his ministry. A very serious man, checking things out, feeling important to be sure. A young man with Down Syndrome name Jean-Claude burst into the room unexpectedly, laughing. He ran up and hugged Vanier, told him he loved him, and then embraced the guy he didn’t know, the serious donor, and told him he loved him too, then bounded out of the room laughing. The serious donor say “Oh, that’s so sad.” Vanier said, “Oh no, he’s so very happy” – and he realized it was the serious donor who was the sad one.

I know on Wednesday, when we get to “O’er the fields we go, laughing all the way,” we’ll throw in those three Ha-Ha-Has that aren’t really in the song, but you just can’t pass up the chance to shout Ha-Ha-Ha, can you? Christmas can be dark. So many are grieving, or battle all manner of challenges during this season. And yet God has wired us, and the world, where no matter how bleak the outlook, no matter how vivid the pain, there is some little residual Ha-Ha-Ha in us, and it’s good to hear an old familiar song, and see laughter, and feel a little touch of joy. In God’s good time, all will be all joy. We’ll be Ha-Ha-Haing forever. Wednesday at noon will be a little foretaste, a teaser, a promise of God’s delightful purpose for us all.

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