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We desperately need to rethink and rediscover joy.

Easter is a seven-week long season of joy that begins on Easter Sunday and stretches all the way to Pentecost 50 days later (the term Pentecost comes from the Greek word meaning fiftieth). In the liturgical calendar, it is the longest season of celebration and feasting. And it is often a hard season to keep. It seems that celebratory seasons would be easier than, say, Lent with its self-denial, and lack of indulgence.

But, to me, embracing joy always feels like a stretch. I constantly feel out of practice.  Part of what I love about practicing the Christian calendar is it tutors us emotionally — whatever we’re like. We tend to think that sorrow and despair are more authentic and real than celebration and joy. The last thing we want to be — or be seen as — is “happy clappy.”

The church calendar gently chastises us too. It says: “Now, celebrate. Now, begin to notice what there is to be joyful about. Now, pay attention to goodness.” How can I possibly cultivate joy for the entire length of Easter? There will inevitably be traffic jams and illnesses, afternoons when I feel grumpy or mornings that I don’t want to get out of bed. But joy can be taken up, even when things aren’t going great. Joy is both a gift and a practice, but it isn’t primarily a feeling any more than self-control or faithfulness are feelings. It is a muscle we can strengthen with exercise.”