Advent conspiracy 24: joy

Today Graham Peacock talks about joy…

I like sad songs; in fact, I’m prepared to argue on some days that the only good songs are sad songs.

I can’t remember when I first heard this song, but it had an instant impression on me: many Christmas songs are full on sleigh bells and schmaltz- only a few like this one hint at the sadness that lurks inside all of us, however much we try and hide it or seek refuge in ‘Christmas Magic’ (sic). The first verse, in particular seems so close to home and present experience.

It’s a hopeful atheist/agnostic song, of that stance that is not harsh or seering about faith, but rather sorrowing that it is not there and still seeing that there’s something…something… that might just give hope. In that sense I think it is an Advent song.

The song invariably makes me cry, but this time when I listened to it, this verse hit me:-

‘All that they destroy
And in their face we throw our
Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy’

Faced with challenge, evil or nastiness, most of us- especially when social media is so accessible and can accommodate the darkest parts of our ego- attack back even harder. Those of us who consider ourselves informed, caring and on the side of the oppressed, despairing that things will ever change and sometimes overwhelmed with the reality of it all are often tempted to hit back with snark or mirthless condemnation. I know I have done. I know I do.

I don’t think anyone is changed by our angry virtue, but I think they have a chance of change if they experience our joy. In any case I think that joy is one of the greatest acts of resistance.

As ever, Mary Oliver puts it better than me:-

Don’t Hesitate
 
If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty
of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
to be. We are not wise, and not very often
kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world. It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case.
Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.
 
From Devotions (Penguin Press, 2017).

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