You’d think it wouldn’t be so. You’d think we’d have found a way to fix it by now. You’d think modern technology would have created a platform or an app or an interface, or whatever geeks call it. You’d think today’s science, all these years after successfully getting a man to visit the moon, would have resolved it. You’d think cybercurrency would have bought it. But no. We are still where we were all those years ago, with no measurable progress. Still searching, still reaching. It pains me to admit it, but even given my vivid imagination and pretty decent command of the English language, I’m still stuck. I sometimes even make up words! The problem? Lack. We as humans suffer from a lack when it comes to expressing the abundance of all that is the Kingdom of God. It is never so true as when we try to talk adequately about this thing called joy. We can talk all day long about happiness, or its opposite, sorrow. We can wax poetic about thrill and delight and elation. We can compose odes and hymns and cantatas and symphonies. We can put oils to canvas and watercolor to paper. We can put on stunning fireworks displays and direct films with enough CGI to make heads spin. But in each we fall short of truly communicating joy.
How do you explain snow to someone from a tropical island, or a tropical Christmas Day to a Canadian? How do you express peace to someone who has only known war and conflict? How do you approach the topic of contented centeredness to the cynical, world-weary agnostic? In the end, joy is an inner reality, an assurance, a feeling, for which words and images can never do proper justice. Our Western mindset abhors this lack, cannot tolerate this inability, cannot comfortably stand by in the face of this incompleteness. And yet, at least once a year at this time, as we focus on joy at Jesus’ birth, our efforts come lurching to a halt. The candle on the Advent wreath doesn’t do it. The amazing sermon on Sunday morning doesn’t even come close. The gifts under the tree fail to communicate. The decorations, all beautiful, are ineffective, too. Maybe the best we can do is say, like Philip’s invitation to Nathanael: “Come and see.” Maybe it’s only in the coming and seeing Jesus for oneself, in the melting, awestruck kneeling before the intimate majesty of the Friend of sinners/King of Kings, in the getting within proximity to the ever-oozing heavenly Kingdom, that we are ‘moved to no words.’ Then, joy simply is. PD