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Women of the Advent | October 4, 2023

The last chapters of the Gospel of John are ones I go to quite often. It is here that Jesus tells the disciples—where he tells us—that he is leaving them his joy. It is a gift—not something we buy, not something we have to be worthy of—just a beautiful part of living and receiving. We are to just open our arms in submission. But that submission can be awkward because we are self-conscious. We tend to have to “figure it all out first.” We have to “process” before we let ourselves be joyful.

This handicap, so to speak, got me thinking about how joy comes naturally to children. Children open their arms wide to receive. Children don’t need a reason to be joyful—being alive is enough. Their souls are free because they are living in the moment. There are no expectations of the mind, no worries, no commitments to be fulfilled, no promises to be kept.

This difference in the naturally joyful child I used to be and the adult I am today was brought home to me several years ago when I was in a group therapy session. The leaders had us play games. At first, I thought this idea was silly because there were some really heavy issues we needed to be dealing with in the limited amount of time we had. But as a competitive game player, I soon got into it and had a really good time. And—added bonus—I began to see some of the other participants in a new light. For about 30 minutes, not one of us was trying to figure out how the past went sideways nor were we projecting into a potentially dismal future.

Reflecting on this later, I realized that play and other activities that don’t have a purpose other than helping us to feel relaxed and happy serve to keep our minds focused on the presenton the moment. And as Psalm 16:11 tells us, in God’s presence “there is fullness of joy.” Joy brings meaning to life—it brings life to life. When we lose our joy, we start to lose our strength, our health, our passion for living. As Nehemiah says in chapter 8:10, “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Living in the moment—being playful, even silly—can be like a defibrillator to our spirit to help shock us out of apathy, cynicism, anxiety, or depression.

So, ladies, the purpose of tonight is “to participate in life in the moment.” We don’t have the privilege of repeating this moment. Let’s live it! Game on!!

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