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Meditation for December 15, 2013 / Advent 3

Everlasting Joy

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
   the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly,
   and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
   the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the Lord,
   the majesty of our God.

Strengthen the weak hands,
   and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
   ‘Be strong, do not fear!

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
   and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then the lame shall leap like a deer,
   and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
   and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool,
   and the thirsty ground springs of water;
the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp,
   the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
A highway shall be there,
   and it shall be called the Holy Way;
No lion shall be there,
   nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
   but the redeemed shall walk there.
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
   and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
   they shall obtain joy and gladness,
   and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
From Isaiah 35:1-10
So many people go through life without any joy. For some people, a lack of joy is somebody else’s fault. I’d have joy if I had a different job. I’d have joy if I had more money. I’d have joy if my health was better.

For some people, life can be like a desert. Life can feel dried up, burnt and dusty. When love tragically dries up. When God seems so very far away. When happiness seems so very far away. When the marriage is dead. When your energies have died. Life can become like a desert. In fact, somewhere along your life and mine, life will be a desert for you. Sometime, somewhere, someplace, each of us will walk a desert path.

If you look at people’s lives, if you look at yourself, you will see that every single action that we perform in our lives --whether we’re trying to educate ourselves, make money, raise a family, begin a career -- whatever we may be doing in your life, we’re doing it because we think it’s going to bring happiness. It’s just that one person thinks so much education is happiness, another person thinks that so much money is happiness, somebody else thinks so much pleasure is happiness, for another power is happiness.

If you look at life, we have done so much in this world for our happiness. And what has happened? Many people have created more comfort and convenience -- but not joy.

Maybe we need to stop trying so hard. What if you were created in joy? What I mean is this: I think we are all, in essence, joyful people. Joy is a natural phenomenon. Joy is an original state of being. Misery is a human creation. If life is a journey, with highs and lows, through deserts and verdant hills, then there is no reason why we cannot be joyful for a major part of this journey. Joy is not about what you do and what you do not do. Joy is about how you are within yourself.

Despite all the external comforts we enjoy, with standards of living that would have been unimaginable a century ago, we are insecure, stressed out creatures that are missing out on the full potential of being human.

Imagine the scene that Isaiah describes. Those who were taken from their homeland – the people of Israel who were deported and taken into exile – they will return home. God will build them a highway through the deserts. As they walk the highway, rivers of fresh water will erupt from the ground. Flowers will bloom. Those who are beat down by life will get up and sing and dance. This is a scene of unbridled joy.

Now, we all know people who would walk this road and see a flower blooming in the desert and say, “I don’t like flowers. It’s just gonna dry up and be dead tomorrow.” We know people who would walk that road and see a cool spring of water break through the parched earth and say, “I’m not drinking that. It’s probably contaminated.” That person’s mind has become a misery-manufacturing machine. That person is creating misery. And in one a sense, that miserable person is correct. Those are all external things. And those things cannot make us happy. Nobody or nothing can cause health or joy from the outside. God cannot force you to be joyful. The source of misery is the way that person processes the material of his or her past. Maybe that person had a bad experience in the past, and all those bad memories are coming back. Maybe that person has trained herself, or trained himself to have low expectations. It’s something we do to protect ourselves from getting disappointed. So, I get why that person is creating misery.

But in another sense, we wonder whether that person is at home within himself or herself. The moment you believe that who you are right now is because of what happened yesterday, you have written off your life. You have hampered possibility. Look at the miracles around us, for God’s sake. Deserts are in bloom. We can see the glory of the Lord. We are invited to participate in everlasting joy. It would be a shame to miss that opportunity.

Today we remember, the deserts of life can bloom. Life can flower with joy. Joy is not something that you do; joy is something that you become. Your sadness is created by you. Your joy is created by you. If you have made yourself truly joyful, you have fulfilled the fundamental purpose of your life.

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