Third Week of Advent – Joy

Luke 1:57-66 & Isaiah 35:1-10

During the holidays, this family picture continually resurfaces.  After over 2 decades, my family and I hunt for this picture and get a great chuckle. My poor baby brother, Austin, appears traumatized at the prospect of not being able to hold this toy guitar for the infamous Bowen family Christmas card; one we all loved so much it was recycled for several years to come.

When I think about what joy means to me during Advent, this picture and the juxtaposition of a screaming baby with the remaining family member’s laughing hysterically is hard to go unnoticed.  Maybe not quite like Austin at 1 year old, there are plenty of individuals who struggle this time of year and who suffer or are suffering with great loss. Whether it be remembering those we’ve lost, financial hardships, a divorce like myself; what is supposed to be a cheerful and joyous time of year only intensifies the pain and isolation we all intermittently experience.

Growing up, I so often associated joy with a singular moment of happiness that passes as quickly as it begins; a picture perfect moment we try desperately to commit to memory as not to lose or forget this exceptional pleasure.  As I have ‘matured’, I now identify the most joy in everyday gestures that I once took for granted.  Having these adversities, ironically spawned healing and gratitude that without them would not have let me recognize and appreciate the small but meaningful acts of kindness I now attribute to the constant and persistent joy only God plans and provides, regardless of the time of year.

What I now claim to be my joy is the hugs my partner and I receive every Sunday from Felix Stacy, the heart-filled smile and conversation with Mary Worthen, the opportunity to sing next to my role model, support and mom, Lori, and so many more examples.  The consistent and purposeful reminder of God’s love and never-ending presence through above average people sustains my faith and refuels my now overflowing sense of joy.  As we navigate Advent, I wish each of you the overwhelming sensation that only true and continual joy can provide, no matter what form it takes.

– Hunter Bowen

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