Joy in Advent by Rev. Dr. Nadine Burton

I remember reading C.S. Lewis’s book, “Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life.”[i] during my seminary days. I admit I picked it up to reflect on this writing. I was always fascinated with Lewis’s glimpses of what he thought was joy. The book reflects his lifelong experience, on a spiritual journey from Christianity in his early childhood, into atheism, theism, and eventually back to Christianity. He experienced what he called arrows of joy shot at him since his childhood. He shares stories of heightened desire and joy, something never to be described, beside a flowering currant bush, through Squirrel Nutkin and autumn, and through poetry. He experienced this joy again at Headington Hill on top of a bus, while the feeling only lasted for a short time.

Toward his conversion experience to theism, he acknowledged that he was holding something at bay, or shutting something out, or wearing some stiff clothing like a corset, or even a suit of armor, as if he were a lobster. He felt himself being, then and there, given a free choice. He could open the door or keep it shut; he could unbuckle his armor or keep it on. Lewis chose to unbuckle, loosen the rein, to make the choice to allow an absolute, yet incalculable God into his thinking and being. And as he did, all his acts, desires, and thoughts melted away. He was brought into harmony with the universal Spirit. I believe what he thought was joy, were glimpses of the holy other, the creator of all things. God showed up in those spaces to give him, what he thought were glimpses of happiness, joy, and contentment of a surrendered life.

Joy during the advent season, can be experienced however we choose to experience it. Our idealism, lusts, ambitions, and egos will push us to something greater. Philosophers, stoics, and ideas can shape and challenge our beliefs, and lead us to the place where we desire, understand, and choose divine humility, which eases us into choosing a God who invites us into grace-filled lives. Honoring and obeying this God, will lead us to joyful, delightful experiences as we await the birth of a baby and the return of a savior.

December 8, Rev. Dr. Nearline Anderson, Associate Regional Minister for Mississippi, led our second annual Blue Christmas Service. In case you missed it, the recording is now available.


[i] All notes and ideas taken from the book, Surprised by Joy.