Advent joy reminds us of the abundance of God’s love. Isaiah’s words call us to remember God’s grace filled acts in the world. They are a call to extravagant joy. But researcher and scholar Brene’ Brown, in her book, Daring Greatly, points out our resistance to joy. She writes, “In a culture of deep scarcity–of never feeling safe, certain, and sure enough, joy can feel like a setup”. She goes on to say that when life is going really well, we begin to anticipate that disaster must then be right around the corner. We’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop, so we don’t let ourselves feel joy.
This sense of foreboding joy is just what Isaiah is speaking to. The people were saved by God’s abundant love, but they struggled to let it in, so they grieved instead. We celebrate God’s presence in our midst, God’s transformation and grace. And then, not wanting to feel too vulnerable, we begin to shut out joy, to not let ourselves feel it. We begin to feel that we don’t have enough, that we aren’t enough, that something bad must be about to happen. And we erect walls around our hearts.
But we can’t have a mentality of scarcity, when we have a theology of abundance. The antidote to foreboding joy is practicing gratitude. Joy can be practiced every day. Isaiah said, “recount the gracious deeds of the Lord, the praiseworthy acts of the Lord”. The Advent practice of joy is a call to gratitude as a form of prayer. When we remember just how much God has done for us, when we notice moments where God’s love is made real, when we look at life around us with a sense of awe and wonder, we experience joy. In this Advent season, may we heed the call to extravagant joy!
Rev. Tara Wilkins, pastor at Bridgeport United Church of Christ in Portland, Oregon, and executive director of the Community of Welcoming Congregations.
©2016 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group. This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.