Archive for joy

Children of God

The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will.

Luke 10:17-21


The seventy were giddy with excitement. They had experienced power and they had done great work. They knew the source of that power:  “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” They were charged up, ready to go again–you can practically hear them exclaiming, “Whoa! It was awesome!” And it must have made Jesus smile.

He gives them a caution, redirecting their joy to its true source in saving grace, but that doesn’t erase the pleasure he surely feels. Later that same hour, he rejoices in God’s presence that these openhearted seventy have taken it in whole.

I love reading about that moment when Jesus was happy. He spent so much time trying to get the message across to people who couldn’t, or wouldn’t, listen or understand that the kingdom had come near. Saying the same thing over and over, coming up with so many parables, explaining the scriptures, sparring with skeptics–just imagining the effort is exhausting.

But this day is different. God gave them an opportunity, and people grasped a revelation. Like excited children they returned with joy, and Jesus, with tender affection, rejoices and gives thanks.

Christmas Day in the Morning!


On Christmas Day in the Morning! Cover illustration by Antony Groves-Raines Carols collected by John Langstaff

On Christmas Day in the Morning! Cover illustration by Antony Groves-Raines
Carols collected by John Langstaff


I can’t imagine celebrating Christmas without music. These joyous illustrations come from On Christmas Day in the Morning! a book of carols gathered by music educator and founder of Christmas Revels John Langstaff. The witty pictures were created by Antony Groves-Raines, an Irish artist especially known for his advertising work for the Guinness company.  To get in the spirit while you look at the pictures, listen to Orla Fallon’s rendition as you scroll down.

Angels making music half title page


Christmas Day



Christmas Day right

As the revels end, the angels pack up their instruments, climb what must be Jacob’s stepladder, and bid us adieu.


Angels packing up

Detail verso page

Merry Christmas!

Hills of the North, Rejoice!

Hills of the North, Rejoice

Words: Charles E. Oakley (1832-1865); first pub­lished in 1870
Tune: Little Cornard by Martin Shaw

According to the writer Ancientandmodern, “I learned a very important lesson from this hymn: the right words are the ones that were in your school hymnbook, and any other words are dead wrong.”

I suspect we’ve all felt that moment of strangeness in worship where you’re going along reciting the Lord’s Prayer or singing a familiar hymn, and you suddenly realize that the rest of the congregation is not using the same words you are. We can cope if we’re visiting a new church, but if it’s a new hymnal or liturgy book in our own church home–count yourself lucky if there’s no riot after the service!

This version by the Huddersfield Choral Society combines lyrics from two English hymnals: Ancient and Modern and The English Hymnal. Sung at a rousing good tempo, the resulting hybrid captures creation’s joy at Christ’s coming while omitting some of the imperialism found in earlier texts. There other meditative and more moderately-paced interpretations (some with different lyrics), but this one made me believe that the hills were rejoicing, so it’s the one I’ll share.

Hope your Advent preparations are going well.  Jesus is coming!


Hills of the North, rejoice;
River and mountain spring,
Hark to the advent voice;
Valley and lowland, sing;
Christ comes in righteousness and love,
He brings salvation from above.

Isles of the Southern seas,
Sing to the listening earth,
Carry on every breeze
Hope of a world’s new birth:
In Christ shall all be made anew,
His word is sure, his promise true.

Lands of the East, arise,
He is your brightest morn,
Greet him with joyous eyes,
Praise shall his path adorn:
The God whom you have longed to know
In Christ draws near, and calls you now.

Shores of the utmost West,
Lands of the setting sun,
Welcome the heavenly guest
In whom the dawn has come:
He brings a never-ending light
Who triumphed o’er our darkest night.

Shout, as you journey on,
Songs be in every mouth,
Lo, from the North they come,
From East and West and South:
In Jesus all shall find their rest,
In him the sons of earth be blest.


What cheer? Good cheer!

New Years Angel What cheer? What cheer?
Good cheer! Good cheer!
Be merry and glad this good New Year!

Lift up your hearts and be glad
In Christ’s birth,’ the angel bade.
‘Say each to other, if any be sad:
What cheer?’

Now the King of heav’n his birth hath take,
Joy and mirth we ought to make;
Say each to other, for his sake:
‘What cheer?’

I tell you all with heart so free:
Right welcome, welcome ye be to me;
Be glad and merry, for charity!
What cheer?


Music by William Walton
Lyrics (from Richard Hill’s Commonplace Book, early 16th century)




Overflowing joy

God does not give his joy to us for ourselves alone, and if we could possess him for ourselves alone we would not possess him at all. Any joy that does not overflow from our souls and help other men to rejoice in God does not come to us from God. (But do not think that you have to see how it overflows into the souls of others. In the economy of his grace, you may be sharing his gifts with someone you will never know until you get to heaven.)

If we experience God in contemplation, we experience Him not for ourselves alone but also for others.


Thomas Merton from New Seeds of Contemplation, I-5, quoted in The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism, Bernard McGinn, ed.

Touching joy


…the essence of our nature is to touch
the joy from which creation comes.


From “Ordinary Love” by eraquinas (Aquinas Woodworth)
via NextScribe

Holy fellowship

There is nothing in human life better than mutual love nor anything sweeter than holy fellowship. To love and be loved is a sweet exchange, the joy of one’s whole life, the recompense of blessedness. What can be lacking in the sweetness of this good and pleasant dwelling, this place where God dwells and where he rests? ‘God is in his holy place, God, who makes those of one mind to dwell in a house’.


Baldwin of Forde
In the School of Love: an Anthology of Early Cistercian Texts, p. 126.
This passage translated by David N. Bell.

Taizé Community – Cantarei ao Senhor

The Taizé Community in France is an ecumenical monastic order of Protestants and Catholics–a “parable of community” that seeks to be a sign of reconciliation between divided Christians and between separated peoples. Taizé songs are intended to support personal prayer, and reveal to us a glimpse of heaven’s joy through the beauty of human voices.

The community is made up of about one hundred brothers. After a time of preparation, a new brother in the Taizé community will make his lifelong commitment. Here are a few of the words used to express this commitment:

…The Lord Christ, in his compassion and his love for you, has chosen you to be in the Church a sign of brotherly love. He calls you to live out, with your brothers, the parable of community.

So, renouncing from now on all thought of looking back, and joyful with boundless gratitude, never fear to run ahead of the dawn, to praise, and bless, and sing Christ your Lord.

Receive me, Lord Christ, and I shall live; may my hope be a source of joy.


Ring out! Bath Abbey bells

Looking down on the River Avon from the windows of our flat, we could often see canal boats below us and hot air balloons above us, and sometimes we could hear the abbey bells calling us.  It was an altogether joyous sound.

This type of bell ringing, where tuned bells are rung in a mathematical sequence, was developed in England in the 17th century and is called change ringing.