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Appleton, WI

DEC 13: IN JOY & HOPE WITH GUEST COLUMNIST MARY ANN OTTO

I’ve Got Joy, Joy, Joy Down in My Heart…Well I’m Trying Anyway
Here we are! In our great Advent waiting, we have come to the week of JOY! The beautiful rose color candle reminds us that the Messiah is near and we are reminded to rejoice!
Nevertheless, will we? Can we in these difficult days?
Advent is one of my favorite seasons.  It is full of hope and promise! C.S Lewis tells us that we prepare for the “grand miracle” in Bethlehem that will lead to all other miracles. How wonderful!
However, if I am honest, I feel the need to refocus this year. Perhaps even engage in a joy tutorial.
I thought I might take you on this journey with me in case you might be experiencing the same thing.
One of my grounding statements on joy that I have used comes from 20th Century French Philosopher and Jesuit Priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.  He said, “Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God.”
JOY IS THE MOST INFALLIBLE SIGN OF THE PRESENCE OF GOD!
One of my favorite examples of this very simple but very real statement is in the earth. Psalm 65 tells us You visit the earth and water it, you make it abundantly fertile… Ralph Waldo Emerson says, “The earth laughs in flowers” Our earth, so full of God and so full of joy.
It is hard to believe but joy is not happiness and it is not rooted in our circumstances. We can look to Jesus’ mom in Luke 1:46-49: My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savior….
The circumstances of Mary’s life, marriage and pregnancy did not offer her great comfort or confidence. It was only love for and closeness to her God that gave this young woman the ability to express the excitement and joy that we hear in the Canticle of Mary. Mother Teresa said, “A joyful heart is the inevitable result of a heart burning with love.”
Mary’s gratitude fueled her joy and her joy fueled her gratitude.  She was open to being surprised by God and what a surprise it was. I imagine her laughter and excitement as she went to visit Elizabeth.
We also know is know that joy is not the absence of suffering. It is the presence of God within the context of suffering. Mary had plenty of suffering as she watched her son rejected and crucified. I’m sure she voiced her concerns to God often. I believe the light of joy never left her because she kept her God close, even in her grief.
Ok then! Growing in joy is always grounded in our relationship with God. It is making that relationship a priority even when we want to be distracted by all the difficulties of a pandemic, our political situation and even our longing for each other.
With Jesus, joy is born constantly once more. It is time to draw God close in prayer and light the rose-colored candle.
Happy Third Week of Advent, everyone!
Mary Ann Otto
Minister for Missionary Discipleship
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