Advent 3: Joy – Neil Kaarsemaker

Are you an expressive person? Would the people around you know by your facial expressions, voice or body language that you are experiencing an extreme emotion?  Whether it is sadness bordering on anguish or delight leaning towards glee, would it be obvious to those near you, whether they knew you well or not, what the state of your heart is?  I ask this because we all experience and express our emotions in very individual ways. Some people are vocal and physically expressive while others are quiet, restrained and physically reserved. How we express ourselves is part of our personal make-up and individuality.

For this week of Advent, we are focusing on the word Joy and the emotional response it generates in each of us. I trust you can recall in your own life a time when you experienced great joy. The kind that warmed you, body and soul, from the tips of your toes to the ends of your fingertips.  When a sense of joy lightened your load, lifted your spirits and renewed your hope and confidence for life and the future. For me, one of those moments was the completion of the Ride to Conquer Cancer as I approached Spruce Meadows, south of Calgary, and the finish line for this 2 day, 200 km bike ride. It had been raining for both days of the ride. The tent city that housed the riders at Spray Lake Provincial Park after day 1 had endured a downpour over night that soaked the field beneath the tents and washed away much of the enthusiasm the riders had for the ride. I clearly recall beginning the 2nd day’s ride in 2C, fog and a drizzling rain. Perfect cycling weather. I wondered many times through that wet, cold day whether I could or should persist in finishing this fund-raising ride. Stubbornness and pride kept me on my bike. When I entered the final 4-5 km of the day’s cycling and I knew the finish line was close I began to experience a warmth in my soul that caught me by surprise. Tears welled in my eyes, my throat tightened, my chest shuddered and my back tingled. Joy was filling my soul. I had felt God’s presence and comfort throughout the entire event but more so on day 2. It gave me courage, determination and strength. I had done it, but not alone. It was as if the world stood still for a few brief moments and nothing else really mattered.  I yelled and pumped my arms in the air as I rode the final 100 metres and crossed the finish line. I’m expressive.

The Advent season reminds us of the coming of the Christ-child, the long promised Messiah, in Bethlehem. We are reminded that the birth of Christ brought light and warmth and hope into the lives of God’s people and all mankind. It does not remove the pain, turmoil, doubt, fear, boredom or uncertainty of life. His birth provides hope, relief and comfort. Immanuel, God with us. We do not walk alone. This is what brings joy and the peace that passes all understanding. Whether you shout and sing or grin and hum is up to you. Joy is a very personal emotion.

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