A Reflection on Joy

[It is suggested that this post be read to the music in the above video]

Joy is rarely summoned or commanded. Often it is an idea lost just under the surface. 

For some, this Christmas will be a warm week full of returnings and reunitings. For others, it will be a reminder of dysfunction, a reopening of childhood wounds. Some will finally feel the warmth of belonging; others the coldness left by the empty seat at the dinner table. Joy has been greatly anticipated and also it has been forgotten as even a possibility.

For the sake of joy, the politicians do not quiet their bickering, countries do not tare down their fences, families do not magically become whole. But I am not convinced that joy bends to the will of such chaos. Rather, joy rests underneath conversations, hidden behind the eyes of the other. Could it be that joy is waiting for us where we’d never imagine to look?


Composition IV – Wassily Kandinsky – 1911

Joy is rarely summoned or commanded. Often it is brought to us in mysteriously different ways.

If we are to experience joy this Christmas, we will likely encounter it differently.

At times, the joy that God brings often crashes into our plans and expectations, reorienting us around God’s persistent love in ways we would never would have imagined. Like the shepherds gleaming their fields, God trumpets us into joy in ways that can only be described as miraculous, exhilarating, and downright fun.

Other times, joy meets us in those ordinary experiences where we happen to capture a glimpse of God in a world that otherwise seems dark and hopeless. By the grace of the Spirit, we are gently swept up in the work God is doing as we find humble joyousness in brief moments of stillness. Like Mary, we stand anticipating God’s joyous purposes, pondering the presence of God in hearts of our own.

And then there are those days when joy is as a joke. A silly thing that once was but would be absurd, even inappropriate to consider. Cynical–understandably so–we do not pray for joy because we are still working on the salesmanship needed to get through the next conversation. Like our Lord hanging there on a tree, if our joy comes it will have to wait for the morning.

Murnau, Train & Castle - Wassily Kandinsky - 1909

Murnau, Train & Castle – Wassily Kandinsky – 1909

Joy is rarely summoned or commanded. Often we can only experience it when we are honest. 

Maybe before joy is happiness it is honesty. I wonder if the way to keep joy from hiding under the surface is to make space for it.

Returning to loved ones, or remaining far away, if we are honest about our condition, our woundedness, our hopes, our visions, then maybe we joy will be more visible. With honesty, just might come the perspective needed to look back at our Christmas and say, “At this moment, God brought me joy.”

Composition 6, 1913

Composition 6 – Wassily Kandinsky – 1913

Joy is rarely summoned or commanded. Often, it is simply a surprise. 

Jesus taught them, saying:


 “Happy are people who are hopeless, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

“Happy are people who grieve, because they will be made glad.

 “Happy are people who are humble, because they will inherit the earth.

 “Happy are people who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because they will be fed until they are full.

 “Happy are people who show mercy, because they will receive mercy.

 “Happy are people who have pure hearts, because they will see God.

 “Happy are people who make peace, because they will be called God’s children.

 “Happy are people whose lives are harassed because they are righteous, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.


May joy surprise you this Christmas,

-Michael Wiltshire

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