Blog from Sr Brenda Schofield: Joy

The third week in the Advent cycle speaks about joy. If you have spent this last week the way I have, you would appreciate the invitation implied in the liturgy of the time

During the past  week I have been doing something absolutely delightful.  I was asked to facilitate a Carol Service called “The Christmas Story” which was put on for four different groups of people with learning difficulties.

We took them through the age-old story with song, comment, dialogue, participation, laughter and shared joy. Yes, joy.

I have done this sort of thing hundreds of times, I suppose,  in my teaching days, or in the parish.  But these meetings last week were in a totally different place.  They will always remain in my memory as times of  real happiness, times when the story of Christmas  became real, became a longing for the coming of the Christ Child again, perhaps in another guise, but with the same love, compassion and joy that the first birth must have brought with it.

I have heard many beautiful renderings of the coming of Christ to our world, not least the breathtaking sounds of the Messiah in a darkened Church, or the soft cadences of well-trained choirs with their pure-voiced young soloists reminding us of the angels’ salutation to the poor shepherds in that long-ago open field with its herds of sheep gathering around their protectors during  that long, cold night on the outskirts of Bethlehem.

But I can honestly say that I have not experienced anything to compare with the simple joy and love that filled the small rooms where our Christmas story took place.  Here there was a quiet understanding of what being loved really means. The people who took part were not particularly young, they weren’t great singers, but they knew what Christmas meant.  They understood without being told, that it is a time for giving, a time for loving, a time for understanding, a time for reaching out in joy to those around them

The almost all had learning difficulties, whatever that might mean, but the sort of learning they had in abundance was the learning that tells them what is really important to a life that has meaning.  They had saved and collected many parcels for those less fortunate than themselves, they had brought up symbols to put around the Crib, symbols which used furry animals to illustrate the text of Isaiah about the dream of Jesus for our world , where those of different ideologies and different cultures, would live peaceably together.  These animals, a wolf and a lamb, for example, a lion and a kid, a young child and a cobra snuggling up to one another around the Crib, spoke volumes of the way that we should live.  It was wonderful.  It was joyful  It was Advent in real life.

I would like to say a fervent ‘thank you’ to those who arranged this experience for me, and to those who have encouraged a child-like joy in those who shared their lives with me so briefly and gave me so much happiness.

I shan’t forget it.  I must live that way too.  So must we all.


That is the hope of this week’s liturgy.

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