I remember many years ago holding a confirmation class for a group of fourteen year old boys and girls. On this particular evening the confirmation group met in Woolavington Church. It was a very good humoured gathering. I had gone to instil some sense of the peace that 'passes all understanding', but they had gone to have fun. Our meeting, somewhere in the middle, was lively, to say the least. One of the things I was trying to get them to appreciate is why, how and when people should bow to the altar. One young man, in pretend irritation about having to demonstrate this, eventually demanded to read a passage from the bible to add some verisimilitude to the proceedings. I picked up a Bible and opened it at random. "There!" I said, "Read the first two verses of that.... "
"Woe to the rebellious children, says the Lord. They carry out plans that are not mine.... " (Isaiah 30:1)
The meeting collapsed...
It always saddens me when I meet people whose understanding of God is such that they have no joy in their hearts and no merriment in their souls. Their argument in favour of miserableness is that salvation and eternal life are too important for humour and flippancy. Life is a serious business and there is no time for levity.
And yet in the book of the prophet Isaiah we have the imagery of the whole of creation singing for joy at the advent of God; 'Sing for joy, O heavens, for the Lord has done this; shout aloud, O earth beneath. Burst into song, you mountains, you forests and all your trees, for the Lord has redeemed Jacob, he displays his glory in Israel.' (44:23), and; Shout for joy, O heavens; rejoice, O earth; burst into song, O mountains! For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones. The mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.' (55:12). The imagery of trees singing and clapping their hands for joy is also found in 1 Chronicles 16:33 – ‘Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth.'
Of course, joy is not confined to the Old Testament. According to St Paul in his letter to the Galatians (5:22) it is one of the fruits of the Spirit. And it is only by sharing in the fruits of the spirit can we come close to God.