Joy sometimes hides in shadows…

Advent, day twenty one.

Giles Fraser wrote a lovely piece for The Guardian yesterday, reflecting on preparing for the funeral of a friend, whilst Christmas unfolded around him.

Michael made a request to me when we were planning his funeral: he asked me to preach on the subject of glory. He remembered me speaking about that extraordinary Dennis Potter interview with Melvyn Bragg in which the TV dramatist – in the final stages of cancer himself – talked about his impending death enabling him to see things more clearly, including the beauty of the plum blossom outside his window: “The nowness of everything is absolutely wondrous, and if people could see that, you know. There’s no way of telling you; you have to experience it, but the glory of it, if you like, the comfort of it, the reassurance … not that I’m interested in reassuring people – bugger that.”…

We live in a world where experience is only valid if it can be digitised, but the process of digitisation mostly strips out the humanity, the brokenness, the inevitability of pain, replacing it with photographs and status updates selected to display the life we wished we were leading. The very opposite of the nowness that Potter was referring to. Bugger that.

Joy is not the absence of pain. It is not something that can be constructed or bought. Rather I think it is what happens when we connect with the beauty within one single moment. Mostly, in my experience, these moments are ones born in that part of our humanity where we are most vulnerable.

We joy in our children.

We joy at our smallness before a vast sparkling sky.

We joy as music breaks past our defences and thrills us to the soul.

We joy when we feel ourselves to be at the centre of a beautiful bigger story.

Joy ambushes us and reduces us to… tears.

Because the thing about joy is that it is a fleeting fickle thing and sometimes, despite our surroundings, it is absent…

Snow angel

‘Joy to the world’ always sounds

ridiculously over-inclusive, from my

narrow perspective

lowered down in these city streets

obfuscated by all that is ordinary.

How about some joy more localised?

More specific

to the state I’m in?


What currency is joy counted in anyway?

What presents will it buy?

Will it float me far away on free air miles?

Will it sprinkle fairy dust on these small days of winter?


Or is just a celestial scratch card

Always scratched by

someone else?


Like a shepherd, I fear I would not recognise it

even if the Angel Gabriel visited me on some lonely hillside

Even if it fizzed in the mountain brooks

like victory Champagne.


Let alone glimpsed in bloody froth

as it slapped down on a filthy stable floor

at the furthest reach of a distant empire.


No choir, just the cries of a too-young mother

And a fart from the odd ruminant.


Joy to the world indeed.

3 thoughts on “Joy sometimes hides in shadows…

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