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I’ve heard that joy is the most vulnerable emotion. At first, I was incredulous because we yearn for it so much, but as I started paying attention to my ease or difficulty inhabiting joy, I discovered that I can be hesitant to enter in.

On a morning walk I was thanking for God for things I was noticing. I felt an invitation to really savor these things consciously, to pay attention to the effect in my body and spirit, to feel joy grow. To my surprise, my heart rate rose, as did the corners of my mouth, and my eyes pricked with tears. The winter light and neighborly banter felt like special gifts rather than the usual dismissed ordinariness of a day. I felt rather silly in my vulnerable display of emotion, yet also courageous amidst the anxieties of living and the sufferings piercing my consciousness. I had stopped guarding myself out of fear of embarrassment or misunderstanding. Pain and anxiety stifle joy, leashing it from the unsafe edges of freedom and discovery. In this world of pain, joy can be the most dangerous to entertain. Paradoxically, when we do let joy into the room of our hearts, we are better able to deal with the pain. As I continued through my neighborhood on my walk and into my day, I had a lot more resilience and patience as I encountered suffering.

In this third week of Advent, I invite you to take some time to enter into joy, to allow joy to dwell in you. As you read the passage below, imagine these things actually happening to you. Let God inspire your imagination and pay attention to the physical sensations you experience as you come to Him through these words of the prophet Isaiah:

What image or word above holds importance for you?

What helps you say “yes” to joy?

What does joy feel like?

May you embody the Joy given to the world and know His embrace this week.