As some of you may know, our parishes hosted a Confirmation Service the other week, with Bishop Robert coming up to confirm 4 adults, from Ilfracombe and Berrynarbor, and our 3 young people - Chloe, Elizabeth and Somer. I don't know why, but I'm always moved by a Confirmation - perhaps because it reminds me of my Confirmation, aged 30, which was such a significant moment in my journey of faith. This time, standing next to the Bishop, I was struck by the silence, each time, after he had laid hands on each person's head and before he spoke the words of confirmation. It was one of those deep moments when you sense something going on that is beyond words and beyond explanation.
And then, after the service, there was a real sense of joy and delight. I was interested in Bishop Robert's sermon, in which he spoke about happiness, and how the expectation in our society, that achieving happiness is the most worthwhile goal possible, actually sets us up for disappointment and failure. Sometimes we're simply not happy. Instead, he suggested we aim for contentment, by which I think he meant an acceptance, by God's grace, of the way things are, of both good and bad fortune - a state of mind which we might also describe as inner peace.
Afterwards, I thought about joy, and in particular, the way that joy is often a kind of act of defiance against everything which oppresses - or depresses - us. I felt it again when the Exmoor Carolers, in concert at St. Sabinus', brought us their special, unpretentious joyfulness as they sang folk carols. It was dark outside, and often the world is dark; yet here was an insistence that joy at the birth of Christ takes precedence over - outshines - all else.
And again, at our 2 Christingle services, as we lit candles and turned the electrics off, I understood a bit more about this joy. Can I call it underdog joy? By which I mean: however much we are told, and tell ourselves, that darkness must prevail, the underdog joy of a small candle declares its final, absolute unwillingness to be put out. And stands for the light and love of Christ, content to shine on in the darkness, for ever and for all of us.
It's the evening of Election Day. Tomorrow, in the cold light of a winter day, you and I may or may not be happy with the result. But joy can never be taken from us.