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Dear Joy - December 13, 2020

by Rev. Joan Kessler

Psalm 126 Second Spring Everyday Psalms

Remembering That It Happened Once by Wendell Berry

Dear Joy,

How are you? Its been ages since I last thought of you but you crept into my mind this past week and I took that as a sign it was time to get in touch. I’m sure you are receiving lots of letters this week. After all, it’s your special day, this third Sunday of Advent. And we are all still gathering around screens and iPhones, trying to figure out how to have Christmas this year with no bodies in the sanctuary, no choir anthems to practice, or white gifts to collect, or children’s pageants to take part in. But we are doing ok… really ok… we are trying to make the best of things this Christmas.

And honestly, Joy, if there was a time when I felt you near, looking back, it’s been most every Sunday morning when I go onto Zoom and those handful of Sundays when we gathered here in the building, and I find their smiling faces… there’s just this glow about them all. And they check-in with one. There’s this sense of gratitude for all that they bring: their God moments, their kids and grandkids, their pets, their willingness to try an origami craft… we have celebrated all these things this past year and thank you for making your very presence known to us in these and so many other ways.

But back to my reasons for writing to you, Joy. You see, I am stuck for what to tell my people this year about You. Because You are clearly not the same as Happiness. Maybe I should tell them that You are not a doctrine or a dogma that can be taught and explained away and we all just go out and do Joy. It’s funny, we can compel people to love one another as Jesus taught us but we can’t make people do Joy… we have to experience You and You show up when You want to show up. I could tell them the science behind the difference between You and Happiness… that Joy activates the parasympathetic nervous system which promotes feelings of peace and calm, while Happiness activates the sympathetic nervous system which is responsible for feelings of excitement, energy and activity... and I’m making a note to myself to look up what those two systems are really about. But my favorite way to describe you, Joy, is that you know how to make yourself known when it counts…

1 Peter 1 says it best of You, that Joy is an immense gladness despite the circumstances. This has not been an easy year for many, facing the roller coaster of COVID closures, reopening, and partial closures once again at a time that would normally see us making plans to gather with our families and loved ones to celebrate Christmas. There have been other losses as well, the death of partners, family members and dear friends and now we are to face our grief and deal with COVID isolation this first Christmas without them. There’s been illness, hospital stays and countless medical tests, cancer treatments, moving household and putting moving decisions on hold, there’s been travelling and quarantining and just staying home… so many hard places that you sought us out, Joy, and I just want to thank you for this and let you know you have helped these difficulties to be so much more bearable.

I wonder where we will meet you in the days and weeks and new months of 2021? Will you show up in the prisons and detention centers as captives are set free… how we long to hear of the release of Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig for whom two years has now passed as of this past Thursday since they were captured and detained by Chinese authorities… will you be there as we roll up our sleeves to joyfully receive the COVID vaccine… will you be there when residents of assisted living places are able to reunite with spouses and other loved ones and embrace in a hug, and how their freedom will be returned to them… will you be there in a dark cold winter’s night walk, with the neighborhood outlined with twinkling Christmas lights on display to share with the world their Joy this holy season… or will you show up in our daily chores, in our treks to our barns of life and find hidden there a young scared family, far from home and about to deliver their first born into what some would call chaotic circumstances… but you don’t wait for perfect circumstances, do you, Joy? I think I’ll tell them this day that You are like all the other weeks of Advent rolled into one because truly Joy, You are the presence of Hope, Peace and Love, all at once and all together.

Well, Joy, it’s been so very good to connect with you once again. And I look forward to hearing from You and seeing your presence in these coming days. For a moment with you is like being with the Holy One’s self. But in the meantime, as the old, old song sings:

Someday soon, we all will be together,

if the fates allow.

Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow.

So have yourself a Merry little Christmas now.

Peace be with you,


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