Joy comes in many disguises. Joy is found in the tears shed while singing a familiar song or being prompted by the Spirit and moved by anything that the Spirit wishes to ambush us with. I have always been joyous as I have seen someone baptized or watched the new birth into relationship in Christ as someone becomes a Christian. C. S. Lewis wrote an entire book called Surprise by Joy and he went on to amplify that in Mere Christianity by encouraging us to see human joy as the prompting and almost tantalizing invitation of the Spirit to know we are made for something more:
“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”
The quintessential story of Joy is the angels visiting the shepherds written in Luke 2:
“In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”
These references about joy should include Nehemiah 8:10b “…for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (I have left out Nehemiah 8:10a which has many wonderful Christmas themes of “giving to those who have not” – the bit about eating fat and drinking wine is something some of us have already got down pat).
The official part of this newsletter is done but I would suggest to you that an aspect of joy is laughter. The Quaker Elton Trueblood wrote a book on the humour of Christ which by being difficult to find shows you how much the Christian faith values humour. I want to share with you some humour from my Dad who turned 91 on Monday. His memory is causing him a little trouble these days but he is still sharp, dry, and funny as ever. Here are some examples from past and present. For those of you who don’t know: my father whose name is Roy Bell with my mother Elizabeth, served at First Baptist Church in Vancouver and Calgary, and Strathcona Baptist Church in Edmonton, and was Principal of Carey College. Bear with me if humour is not your thing, especially dry humour… Read no further.
- Commenting on someone whose anxious prayers got them into deeper trouble he said, “She has conversations with God that doom her.”
- When accosted by a woman congregant at St James Road Baptist Church in Watford, England, asking where on earth they got the name “Jeremy” for their firstborn: “From the Bible, Mrs. Jones, from the Bible.”
- Had an argument with Marshall McLuhan in the parking lot of CBC Toronto where he had corrected the Roman Catholic McLuhan on the historical sequence of Calvin and the Puritans. Neither of them would cede the point. You can imagine what it must have sounded like.
- Phil Collins and Roy were teaching a preaching class to which the Scottish Canadian Doug Johnson had just completed his first in-class sermon (Doug told me this story, to his credit). Roy asked Doug what he thought of the sermon he had just preached. To which Doug replied, “I hoped they understood me given my accent.” To which Roy replied, “Your Scottish accent was the only thing you had going for you.”
- When my wife Kerry asked him if he was good he asked her, “In character or disposition?”
- Finally, the last one belongs to Phil Collins, who succeeded Roy as Principle of Carey. Phil was at Carey late one night when my predecessor Harry Renfree called. The conversation went like this:
Phil: Carey Hall. Who in the hall do you want?
Harry: Who is this?
Phil: You don’t know?
Phil: Then I am not going to tell you (and hung up).
Thanks for your patience.