Celebration: Drawing Back the Veil
by Scott Lyons
Joy is often hidden. I think of a bud and the anticipation of beauty and pleasure that it will bring. Our imagination, in stride with our expectation, sees the flower.
I think of the excitement that grows along with the swelling womb. Joy is at work! And at birth, the revelation of the child far outweighs our greatest hopes.
Womb and bud break open to reveal life and beauty. That which was hidden is revealed, and the long-awaited joy is finally realized. The flower was there within the bud; the child was there within the womb. Though they were veiled for a time, their unveiling demonstrates the truth of it.
And so it is with joy. There is something mysterious about its concealment. It is as if it is too large for our skin. In Isaiah 49:13, the immensity of joy bursts poetically from the writer and pervades his world:
Sing for joy, O heavens!
Rejoice, O earth!
Burst into song, O mountains!
For the LORD has comforted his people
and will have compassion on them in their suffering.
And that verse is our story. Celebration comes, as in all stories, at the end. (That is not to say, of course, that there is no great joy or pleasure throughout the story as well.) Let me give an example that echoes our lives. In The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Peter Jackson’s movie adaptation of Tolkien’s masterwork, this end-joy is captured exceptionally well. After Frodo and Sam are rescued from Mount Doom, Frodo awakes in a bedroom that is beautiful and bright. As he lies in bed, his friends enter the room and they celebrate together—smiling, shouting, and laughing. The sound of their celebration is amplified by music. The scene is heavenly, happy, and strangely profound. And then, lastly, Sam enters the room—Sam, who had shared in Frodo’s suffering. Sam does not jump on Frodo’s bed or crowd to his side. He stands in the doorway, and Frodo meets his gaze. A quiet smile touches their eyes. The bond of deep friendship and love between the two friends, a bond forged by terrible loss and suffering, is inexpressible. No one but they can understand or share in it. In them, joy is hidden because they are simply not equipped to express it in a moment. The joy is too great.
True joy is like that. It is not something that is compassed in a “Wahoo!” or a high five. True joy takes a lifetime, perhaps more, to express, to unravel, and to explore. There are moments when joy rises inside until you feel as if it might split you open, unveiling itself before an unsuspecting world. Yet it remains largely hidden.
And self-absorption crushes joy. It is when we are willing to let go of our lives and ourselves, even at a terrible sacrifice—indeed, often through the suffering—that we rediscover joy. So pray for and love the people in your life: Give to those in need, feed the hungry, pray always, say “I love you,” greet one another with a holy kiss and with the peace of Christ.
Joy is enwombed in each of us. And as new creatures in an old, tear-stained world, Christ calls us to give birth.