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An Ode To Joy

Last Saturday I had the privilege of joining my family to celebrate the wedding of my beautiful and amazing niece. She graduated from college a couple of years ago, when I was in Philadelphia, but I couldn’t make it to her graduation in Atlanta and so in a way I felt the real need to be there to support her, wish her the very best, and to participate in such an important and monumental day in her life.

Aba looked so resplendent in her beautiful dress, wore a very big smile on a face covered with a see-through veil. The veil actually reminded of Paul’s remark in first Corinthians where he argues that we presently see in a mirror dimly; but then face to face. Paul continues, “Now I know in part; but then shall I know, even as I am fully known.” What a powerful invitation to a hopeful future of knowing more fully, and being fully known! And in that future, all will become clear. In fact, all that is hidden will be revealed and laid bare before our eyes. At that moment in time, we would not have the luxury of speculation but the incredible gift of beholding the One who makes all things beautiful in His time.

The wedding itself was held at a resort, which sat by a tributary of a lake. Of the many fascinating moments, one that stood out for me was the bride arriving at her wedding in a boat decorated with beautiful pink and white rose flowers. I thought that was incredibly amazing. The symbolism of arriving by a boat, the nearby water, the flowers, food, beverages and in fact many families and friends, and the joyful excitement all over, tells a much bigger story - one that is rooted not in certainty but in a hope that finds its foundation in unadulterated joy and the beauty of life itself.

To an extent, the Christian story, and especially the Advent story, is no different. It is a joyful story fueled primarily by a hope that assures and reassures us of the abiding presence of a fulfilling joy that knows no bounds, is accessible to any and all, and invites nothing but our humble embrace of all the goodness that life offers. More important it is to accept our unique role as prime attractors - that through acts done in love, we may offer others more than enough reason to be eternally joyful.

I couldn’t be happier for my beautiful niece and her husband. Their youthful exuberance and pure affection for the other awakens in me the promise of Advent - a season of joyful waiting for the birth of the One who promised us way more than life can offer us.

What a beautiful wedding it was! What a joy to see, hug, and fellowship with lots of family and friends! I actually met a friend I had not seen since 1990, and didn’t even know he was related to my older sister. Kobayashi Issa, a Japanese poet wrote that “Under cherry trees, there are no strangers.” And Aba’s wedding was akin to being under a cherry tree; there were no strangers, just friends and loved ones. What a joyful surprise! Well, so is the surprise of Advent - a season that invites us to enter into the great stream of joy. 

Our reality is one where joy isn’t expressed in the same way at all times in our lives, most especially during difficult moments. However, in whatsoever way that joy changes or adapts, it always endures. And Advent endures because it points us to an eternal joy which only the little baby Jesus can offer, and which enfold us in just the same way Joseph and Aba enfold each other.

To me, that explains why we wait expectantly for the birth of Joy, and why we sing an ode to the joy of our lives.



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