It is seen on the face of the competitor after scoring the winning goal in a championship game. It is expressed by an extrovert upon arriving at their surprise birthday party. It is shown in the unbidden tears on the cheeks of a bridegroom looking back and seeing his bride ushered down the aisle – to him! It is manifested in the squeals of children discovering their wiggly new Christmas puppy in the box with the big red bow. It turns the exhausted, oxygen-deprived grimaces of the family in the OR waiting area into giddy, tear-stained, grinning relief at the doctor’s thumbs-up report: everything went well. Joy. Like adrenaline eruptions just biding their time until ‘that’ moment, like bottled helium ready to float all the balloons, like the black-and-white world suddenly transformed into living color. Joy. It is sometimes kept private, but mostly it’s gossiped excessively – even to strangers. It is a feeling of fullness, of buoyancy, of completion. It is an unwieldy emotion that bursts out upon its ‘victim’ (have you ever seen a speaker, mid-sentence, throat constricted, tears welling up?) It is a worldview transformer. Its signature is excess. It is its own celebration but gregariously invites bystanders to join in (have you ever ‘felt’ the reunion joy of a couple madly embracing in airport Arrivals?)

Joy is essential for life in the now and the not yet or so one would surmise listening to Jesus: “I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love. That’s what I’ve done – kept my Father’s commands and made myself at home in his love. I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you.” John 15:9-12, MSG. The phrase, translated here by Eugene Peterson: “intimately at home in my love,” conjures up a stormy winter’s night, curled up by a roaring fire with a mug of steaming cocoa with marshmallows, contentedly sipping and enjoying the fire’s occasional crackle and pop, mesmerized sleepy-eyed by the flames. It seems this is the context in which friends of Jesus are to live, as well as the context in which they become candidates both for joy’s unexpected visits and oozer candidates of those very unexpected visits. More good stuff tomorrow at 10 AM, 3 PM, 4 PM. See you there. PD

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