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Joy to the World

But why am I so favored, that the mother of the Messiah should come to me? The moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leaped for joy. ~Luke 1:43-44

My one-hundredth life bird was a Spotted Sandpiper in New Brunswick. I had only started keeping a life list the year before, in 1987. The list began with 88 species in no specific order, just that I knew that I had previous observed them. In those first two years my list grew by only about 30 species. In the 1989, I really caught the listing bug and made a point of adding 100 species, which obviously included my two-hundredth lifer, a Philadelphia Vireo in Maine. In the craziness of my birding career, I’ve had a few times when I’ve listed over 200 species in a single day, and even more when the 100th bird of the day was not long after sunrise. But building a life list is a far less frenetic adventure. Now 500 species are within reach, though this next dozen species will clearly come more more slowly and methodically (barring travel to somewhere west of the Rockies or out of the country). When (not if) I hit that milestone, I will be happy, but I will also feel something more profound, joy.

Joy is not happiness, it is less fleeting than happiness. Joy is something of a choice, a way of viewing and understanding circumstances. Joy often is the reward for patience. Joy can be found in the anticipation and in the remembrance.

Luke tells us that Mary understood the deep meaning of joy. When she and her cousin Elizabeth, both miraculously pregnant, were together they knew that the kicking Elizabeth felt was more than the typical. Rather, it was John leaping for joy at the promise of what Jesus would bring. Mary marked the moment by bursting into song about the future justice having already arrived in the joyful understanding of the one carrying the good news.

Prayer: Joy of the world. Fill us. Amen.


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