My decision to follow the Northumbria Community readings during Advent has shown me, afresh, how mischievous God's spirit is... some of these readings are at best puzzling, and many of them present what I have come over the week to term 'unjoy'... the opposite of what I understand joy to be.
To me, joy is not an emotion or a feeling, it is something inner, more akin to an attitude or a state of mind, a kind of indefatigable positivity that recognises reality as it really is but refuses to be defined, constrained or restrained by it. Unlike Pollyanna's ridiculous glad game (I'm glad that bad thing happened because now....) joy has a sense of defiance (that which happened is frankly awful, but I will not allow it to destroy me) and even, I am discovering mischief.
Unjoy is manifest in bitterness, in unkindness, in lack of generosity, in resentment... as we spot hints of unjoy we seek to subvert them with joy.
One reading appeared twice this week (I am sure a transcription error... or was it divine mischief?) and, to me, illustrates how Jesus, tempted to an life of unjoy, chose instead joy in all its costly authenticity...
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread." Jesus answered, "It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone.’" The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, "I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours." Jesus answered, "It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’" The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down from here. For it is written: "‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’" Jesus answered, "It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’" When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time. (Luke 4: 1 - 13)
Unjoy... arising from a focus on material satisfaction, power or celebrity. I wonder what tempts us to unjoy rather than joy? I wonder what it means to look at the world through a lens of joy, spotting the hints of God's indefatigable positivity and gentle mischief?
God, grant us a fresh experience of inner joy
Remove from us the temptation to unjoy
And lead us in your mischievous path of unquenchable shalom