JOY MAKES THE DIFFERENCE IN EXPERIENCING GOD
Monday, December 12th
Believe: to accept something as true, genuine, or real; to have a firm or wholehearted religious conviction or persuasion; to regard the existence of God as a fact
Behold: to perceive through sight or apprehension; see; to gaze upon; observe
Now in that same region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for see, I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. (Luke 2:8-11 NRSVUE)
Our Advent Joy today comes from this story of the shepherds, with the joy of the angel’s proclamation and the glory shining all around! Can you imagine being one of those shepherds? What a surprising, awakening experience of sheer joy in the darkness of night!
Our Advent Joy is our awakening to God all around us. This awakening first began with God becoming incarnate with us in the birth of Jesus. Advent Joy transforms our experience of God from believing to beholding – we move from believing in the existence of God to witnessing God’s presence in our existence!
I first heard of this difference – believing to beholding – from Barbara Brown Taylor at a writers’ conference. In her memoir, Leaving Church, she wrote of her struggle:
The parts of the Christian story that had drawn me into the Church were not the believing parts but the beholding parts…
Whether the narratives starred hayseed shepherds confronted by hosts of glittering angels or desert pilgrims watching something like a dove descend upon a man in a river as a voice from heaven called him “Beloved,” Christian faith seemed to depend on beholding things that were clearly beyond belief…
I wanted out of the belief business and back into the beholding business. I wanted to recover the kind of faith that has nothing to do with being sure what I believe and everything to do with trusting God to catch me though I am not sure of anything.1
We may not witness the glory of angels shining all around, but we can witness the glory of the vast multitude of planets and stars in a universe beyond our comprehension. We may not have seen the birth of Jesus, but we can witness God’s presence in the sacred sound of any newborn cry. We may not see a burning bush, but we can witness God’s creative power in a radiant autumn tree. We may not hear an angel’s proclamation, but we can hear God’s voice in our quiet meditation. God continues to be with us, moving among us, revealing Godself to us. We only need to awaken our hearts and minds to be alert.
God came to us in Christ to deepen our faith from believe to behold, from knowing the existence of God to delighting in the experience of God. This is our Advent Joy!
1Taylor, Barbara Brown. Leaving Church. HarperCollins, 2006.
Bible verses taken from https://www.biblegateway.com/
Definitions were found at https://www.merriam-webster.com/
Photo by Karen
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