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13 / Entering Fullness

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I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord; “plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

the CULTIVATING

journal

The Divine Tension of Christmas

December 23, 2019



A Reflection on Joy and Sorrow

 

Joy. A word synonymous with Christmas, yet a word that in many ways feels more out of place this year than ever before. Joy in the midst of a world that seems like it’s on fire everywhere. A world that no longer feels robust and immortal. A world that becomes more divided and antagonistic every day. A world that seems to recognize its need for Him less and less.

In this season, we are called upon to engage Joy.

We engage Joy from a seat where we celebrate what once happened, when God responded to the destitution of the world He loved. We celebrate the divine invitation that was extended to all mankind. But perhaps after so many generations, this time in history feels distant and out of reach now. A time and place foreign to us. And in this disconnect can be a kind of lament. A kind of sorrow. For this was not our own story to experience for ourselves. We did not bask in a state of rapture as we looked on the Christ Child with our own eyes, or proclaim from our own lips the glorious news that He had at long last come. Nor are we of those who currently have come into the fruition of all that was promised in those days. No, we are of those who have heard the Good News, who have been grafted into the Family of God and who are still waiting. Those who are still watching. Looking back from the outskirts of this time in history long past. 

In this season, we engage Joy from a seat of perpetual anticipation of what is promised to us, when He returns and releases us from the desperation of the world He loves. But perhaps this too feels distant and out of reach. A time and place intentionally left unknown to us. And in this distance, is perhaps its own kind of lament, its own sorrow.

For we are still waiting, still watching. Looking forward from the center at a time in history yet to take place.

So, how do we engage Joy in the shadow of what once was while looking towards the light of what will one day be but is not yet?

How do we engage Joy in the sorrow that can be present in the in-between? In this mortal and divine tension that for us of this day and age, is the only reality we have ever known?

How do we engage Joy in a world that is rapidly steering itself towards utter ruin? How do we engage Joy here and now when what was promised in this world was not the eradication of sorrow but the eventual overcoming of it?

We see Joy for what it is in contrast to the sorrow.

If we look at sorrow not as something that maintains the absence of Joy but as something that in its very design makes room for Joy, then ironically, it is possible that we can find Joy everywhere. If sorrow is always with us, then from this perspective, we discover that space is continually being made for Joy. 

Close your eyes and think back to a great moment of Joy… What set that moment apart from all the others? Why was Joy the defining factor here? Something was present a moment before that created space for this Joy, created a vacancy. What was it?

When we peruse the pages of Scripture and come across moments of great Joy for the giants of the Faith, there is always something present leading up to these moments. A certain context that is waiting for Joy to enter in. Let’s take Abraham and Sarah in their moment of being given Isaac. Or Hannah’s moment of being given Samuel; Zacharias and Elizabeth being given John; the Israelites being given Jesus. The one thing that preceded each of these miracles, the thing that made room for these crystalized moments of Joy, was a deep longing. This longing and the petitions that ascended to Heaven as a result, made a vacancy. If there had been no longing, no petition, no need, then these miracles, would not have held the significance that they each did. They would not have spoken so clearly of the deeper Story that was unfolding. They would not have represented the heart of Heaven so irrefutably. 

In our longing, in our petitions, sorrow does not in truth, serve to keep Joy at bay but creates a Joy-shaped space in our hearts.

Though perhaps a controversial source, Kahlil Gibran wrote this on the interconnectedness of joy and sorrow:

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
   

Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
 

And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
       

When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.

If sorrow is always making room for Joy, then it stands to reason, that often we discover our strength not in the moments absent of sorrow, but in the middle of it.

And as we engage Joy in the midst, we remind ourselves if not others, that sorrow is only a temporary place holder for something much longer lasting.  

We find strength here not because we in and of ourselves are strong or because we have taken on a “better” perspective that gives us strength. We find strength in the midst because that is where we find Him. We find that He alone is the Answer to the longing. He was then as the long-awaited Messiah and He remains the Answer as Emmanuel, God with us. The work on the cross and in the grave cannot be undone and as a result, Joy maintains its presence within all earthly sorrows.

But where does that leave us in the tension of today? In choosing to engage not necessarily the sorrow, but the Joy that the sorrow has created a vacancy for, we fight the Good Fight from a higher plain. The thing about Joy is that it always whispers of something deeper that either has already occurred, is currently taking place or is yet to come. It is the evidence that there is more at work than what the current state of things would suggest.

So, what is our Joy in this moment? We know all too well what sorrows we carry with us. We know what sorrows perpetuate themselves just outside our walls. But have we made room in our minds and our hearts for the joys that these sorrows have made a vacancy for? 

In this season of Christmas, we actively engage with the divine reality that the Messiah did in fact, come while we simultaneously grapple with the fact that we are still waiting, still watching for His return. So, what then bridges the gap between the divine Joy of what once was and the longing for what is yet to be? 

It isn’t a what but rather a Who, and in His presence we find fullness of Joy.

 

Author’s Note: 
 
These two songs below represent to me the lament of longing and the rapture of what it is to rejoice in the midst of the sorrow, and to rejoice in the midst of longing fulfilled. Enjoy.  

Pahtyana Moore reading for us. 

 

 

We Watch, We Wait

By Nichole Nordeman

To listen click here.

 

The ancient Word

The aged scrolls

The branch of David in the wind

How many lifetimes must unfold

Before the Promised One steps in

How many deserts, how many kings

How many more burnt offerings

Emmanuel, we breathe Your name

We watch, we wait

 

We watch

We wait

We ask

We ache

 

God with us

Someday

We watch

We wait

 

Dead of Night

A swollen womb

Heaven held inside my hands

How could there be

No other room

But for a bed of straw and sand

 

And lo the blood

And oh the cries

And still my soul doth magnify

Emmanuel, I breathe Your name

We watch we wait

 

We watch

We wait

We ask

We ache

 

God with us

This day

We watch

We wait

 

Interlude

 

A longing heart

A world on fire

We want to see Your face again

No man can know

The day the hour

The many miles from Bethlehem

But every knee will bow and then

And every tongue confess again

Emmanuel, we breathe Your name

We watch we wait

 

We watch

We wait

We ask

We ache

 

God with us

One day

We watch

We wait

 

We watch

We wait

We ask

We ache

 

God with us

This day

We watch

We wait

 

 

“Rejoice”

by Andrew Peterson

To listen click here. 

 

And when the winter is over


The flowers climb through the snow


The willows weep and the clover bloom


Then all at once you hear a song


That’s stronger than the noise



Rejoice


Rejoice



And when the peace turns to danger


The nights are longer than days


And every friend has a stranger’s face


Then deep within the dungeon cell


You have to make a choice



Rejoice


Rejoice


Rejoice


And again I say


And again I say


And again I say


And again I say


Rejoice



Be still and know that the Father


Will hasten down from His throne


He will rejoice over you with song



So set your face against the night


And raise your broken voice



Repeat Chorus



The featured image is titled “Christmas Angels 60 Years On” is (c) Lancia E. Smith and used with her glad permission for this piece by Pahtyana Moore and for The Cultivating Project. These tiny angels have been part of Lancia’s Christmas since her childhood and have been a part of Pahtyana’s throughout her childhood as well. They represent sorrow of parting by death and distance, and long-hoped for joy when those lost are reunited.



 

Pahtyana Moore

comments

  1. Joy is such a profound word to ponder! Well done! Visiting from Facebook

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