Babies can melt the stoniest of ogre hearts with their purity and innocence, their unfeigned joy at seeing a silly grinning adult babble and goo and make faces for some unknown reason. They gradually begin the process of discovering their world, first by ‘getting’ what it takes to receive love and affection (coos, gurgles, smiles, arms-and-legs gymnastics, etc.), food, drink, and a drier and better-smelling environment (red-faced, implacable screeching seems effective in bringing a servant running, even in the middle of the night). There is only a brief interruption to ongoing joy caused by these recurring needs and, once satisfied, life is all sweetness and light again – and it’s time for another nap. As they gain more and more freedom of movement (away from barred beds, fenced-in pens, bouncy contraptions hung in doorways and awkward harnesses surrounded by big white trays), their growing independence encounters life’s unpleasant side – sharp corners, hard floors, hot surfaces, round yellow things that look wonderful but taste even worse than the goopy stuff in the dog’s dish. Slowly but surely, the innocence bumps into the unkind, the unlovely, the unreliable, and world wariness surges while joy recedes. The big people start saying, “No!” more often with bad looks on their faces. Teeth are only meant for biting food, not the cat or Mommy. Getting peas out of your nose is not as fun as putting them in. Falling on gravel is more painful than falling on carpet. If bright red stuff comes out of your knee your mouth starts screaming. Putting things into those little holes in the wall down near the floor is super scary and painful (note to self)! Fast forward to adulthood and these, and many, many more learning experiences have been added to the list of what to do and what not to do. Survival savvy has largely stifled the constant flow of joy, usurping its place with more immediately gratifying, but less deeply satisfying, occasional happinesses. Joy has actually become suspect, something encouraging you to let your guard down, then stinging you for being so naïve. Childlike wonder and gleeful abandon are distant memories, slivers from a time that once was, but is now no longer accessible. And then Advent comes along, promising the arrival of the One who is the source of joy, Joy itself, joy that He himself is! He, Jesus, has freely supplied us, his children, big and small, with his very own joy in all its bounding exuberance. The best part? No red-faced, implacable screeching necessary! Let’s get in on the joy, y’all!
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