Joy Unspeakable and Full of Glory
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December 29, 2011 | 1171 views | Post a comment
C.S. Lewis observed that something of genuine beauty produces in us joy, joy born from two reactions. First, Lewis said, we stop. If it is a work of art, a symphony, a striking human being, or a sunset on the beach; a thing of beauty arrests us, stops us in our tracks to look and observe, the rest of the world falling away.
And second, we must then share what we have experienced with others. We simply cannot contain ourselves. “Listen to what I am hearing! Come see what I see! You have to experience this with me!” Stop and share, Lewis said, are the products of complete joy.
For those of us who are parents, we know this sensation well. We cannot forget holding our newly born children for the first time. The world around us disappeared. We were stunned motionless by a holy silence, a silence broken only by the sharing of joyful phone calls to waiting friends and family.
If you have ever been in love -- passionate, blissful, absurd, fanatical love -- then you know what it is like for life to stop otherwise. New love is more than butterflies in the belly, it is absorption in another person, so much so that nothing else matters -- except for telling others about the one you love.
I can remember standing at Beluga Point outside Anchorage, Alaska. The whales were breaking the white-capped waves, the lush green mountains stood in the background, and the creaking of melting glaciers filled the air. I was stunned silent. The majesty of that moment stopped time, but when time resumed I wanted to tell everyone what I had experienced!
I have stood at the rim of the Grand Canyon, flown over the Grand Tetons, climbed the volcanoes of Central America, watched life emerge into the world, gazed into the eyes of the woman who loves me, witnessed my grandmother pull fresh biscuits from a wood stove: In each case I can’t tell you much about what was going in the world around me. I can only share with you the pure joy that ruptured my heart at those moments, and tell you I will, if you will let me.
This is exactly Lewis’ point. We find joy in what we see, hear, or experience and then we must share it with others. I wonder if this is what the shepherds experienced on that first Christmas. It was a night that began just like so many other nights before. The shepherds huddled together, shivering beneath the twinkling stars, as the frost fell heavy on the ground and on the topsides of the stupid sheep they were guarding.
It was just another night of low-class, no-class work, scraping out a living while dreaming of warm food and a warm bed. The only things that kept them awake were the worries on their minds: Lurking predators in the night, lurking bill collectors on their doorsteps, a sick child back at home, an empty pot over the family fire. There was so much with which to be troubled.
Then, it happened. An angelic chorus erupted from the sky or from heaven, from somewhere, and sang of the Christ-Child born in Bethlehem. The shepherds quaked and shook with fear, stunned with a silence as still as death. But it was a silence that might as well have been shouting when compared to the holiness of kneeling in the barn where the beautiful newborn baby lay.
As they tiptoed away from the manger, they could no longer contain their joy. “They spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed.” And they returned to the low-class, no-class work of guarding stupid sheep under the cold stars.
They still had their troubles. They were still poor, hungry, and tired. They still had four and two-legged predators with which to deal, but joy had found a place in their hearts, joy unspeakable and full of God’s glory. They couldn’t be quiet about it, and neither can we.
Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, speaker, and author. His books include “Leaving Religion, Following Jesus” and “The Jesus Tribe.” Visit his website at www.ronniemcbrayer.net