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About the Joy card

Far above the Ephel Dúath in the West the night sky was dim and pale. There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for awhile. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and beauty forever beyond its reach.
—J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

In times like these, it can be hard to remember that in the end the Shadow is only a small and passing thing. I don’t know about you, but the Scriptures help me to remember that. The Scriptures call us to cultivate the joy of the Lord. The joy of the Lord is not a shallow, half-hearted thing. The joy of the Lord is deep—it wells up inside and overflows—not because of circumstances, but because of the reality that transcends them.

I was thinking about this text all last winter before I created the card during the spring. I’ve always wanted to illustrate this passage, but when you get down to it—how do you draw a tree shouting? The closest I could get was to show leaves falling off because of the vibration.* The text, from Isaiah 44, is part of those wonderful last 26 chapters where Isaiah proclaims God’s rescue of Israel. It’s the section I read the most when I am discouraged.

Isaiah calls even the creation itself to break into a shout of joy. He didn’t say that because circumstances were looking good. He said that because God was (and is) in control, and because something wonderful was about to happen. Of course, we know from the New Testament that these chapters point to Jesus. At Christmas we celebrate His coming, and (in my cards anyway) we look forward to His final work of restoration. Because in the end the Shadow is only a small and passing thing.