On Mystery: Heralds of Joy

by Rev. Aaron Payson

This month’s Soul Matter’s Theme is Mystery. In service to this theme and following requests for the text of the imagined conversation which was part of last weeks’ sermon, below are the words to Heralds of Joy, first written by me in 2006, surfacing again this year as a reminder that what is mysterious, and most wonderful, is the humanity we can bring to those who seek companionship through life’s most challenging experiences. May your Holiday Season be filled with such miraculous moments! Blessings, Aaron

Heralds of Joy
A recent archeological survey uncovered an as-yet-unknown ancient manuscript containing an illuminating conversation between two of Hebrew and Christian scripture’s most important personalities. The following has been translated to date.

“Gabriel, my most beloved, trusted friend, come in, come in. Please have a seat.”

“Thanks. . .um, Michael said your message was urgent, and I figure if its urgent for you, must be urgent for all of us. What’s up?”

“Well. . .um. . .how do I say this… .I… I’m in a bit of a predicament.”

“You. . .in a predicament. That’s rich. Oh, I get it. . .Did Satan put you up to this? That little narc! He’s always trying to get me in trouble. I tried to tell him that I said “Gosh Darn” but would he listen. . . Noooooooo. But it’s true, that’s what I said. Ask anybody. Ask Michael. Wait till I see him next week. I’ve got an itch to give him a piece of my mind. Little tattle tale.”

“No, no, no, Satan has nothing to do with this. This is something, just between you and me see. No one else knows yet, and I don’t want them to know yet. So I have a special job for you.”

“Great! What is it? Want me to smite someone. . .rain down hail and fire. . .give’m the old what for, so to speak?”

“Noooooo, now listen. I need you to make a couple of house calls for me.”

“House calls? Why? WHAT DID YOU DO?”

“Well, I’ll tell you. But swear you won’t tell anyone else.”

(whispers in his ear).
“Uhum, okay, yes, WHAT! You didn’t! How could you! She’s supposed to marry soon! What will the neighbors think? How many times do we have to tell you not to play around down there? It’s not Disneyland you know!”

“I wasn’t playing. And you’ve got it all wrong. I’m involved every time a child is born. It’s all holy. But this one, there’s something about this one that’s unique. Not that they aren’t all unique and wonderful in their own way. But this one. . .This one’s got an old soul. Something rare. He’s got it in him to spin a story so well, and so beautifully, that it’ll make your heart burst from your chest. And like so many others before him, he’s got integrity, and wisdom beyond his years. He’s got the capacity to be present to others that I’ll bet they’ll swear he healed them right there on the spot.”

“Isn’t this a bit dangerous? I mean, what if Herod finds out? What if Caesar gets wind of this new dreamer? How’s it going to look when the powers that be come crashing down on him?”

“Haven’t thought that one through all the way yet. I want to give him a chance to love them first. That’s where you come in.”
“Right. Where do I come in?”

“Right now. I want you to go down there and tell his mother and father that a baby’s coming. Let them know how special this one is. Give them a sense of their place in this miracle.”

“Right. . well.., wrong. Not that you’re wrong, but I think you’ve got the wrong guy. This sounds more like a job for Michael. Remember the last time you sent me out? Daniel, I think that’s what his name was. I am much better at explaining things rationally. If you’re confused I’m the guy. But I don’t like this sentimental stuff. Besides. Every time I show up I scare the daylights out of someone. I don’t like it.”

“But that’s why I choose you. Seems to me that we need a bit of reason in all of this, and someone whose had some experience dealing with others in difficult times. Besides, this is a skill that might suit you to learn.”

“What skill?”



“Presence. . .All you need to do is deal gently with them. They are already frightened. Young, about to be married, now with child, and no real place to call home. Go. Remind them that they are not alone. Remind them of how precious they are. Let them know that whatever happens, I’m with them. And then just stand with them. Surround them with all the joy you can muster.

“Joy? . .What’s joy? I’m certain I recognize confusion and can be compassionate. But joy, that’s something entirely different.”

“Joy, my friend, is a feeling of fullness. A feeling of gratitude, love, ecstasy, all wrapped up into one grand feeling. It is being so full of life that you can’t get that manna-eating grin off your face. It is remembering, in the face of all that would rob you of memory, of dreams and hope, where you come from, what you are for, and whose you are. It is that feeling that takes you beyond the things of life, to the core of your existence, and there it lights a fire that burns with the intensity of unfathomable fire.”

“Oh, I get it, right. Joy. Happiness writ large.”

“Not just happiness. Unconquerable happiness. Happiness that transcends any given worry, hurt, fear, or frustration. It’s about the heart of things.”

“Like I said, maybe Michael’s the one you want for this. I don’t really think. . .”

“Look, would it help if didn’t go alone?”
“You mean I could take. . .”

“Take the whole blooming choir if you want. Make it a party. Enjoy each other. Remind them that it’s important to share joy with those you love, friends, family, neighbors. . .strangers you meet in the marketplace. Remind them that they too can be angels unawares.”

“O.K. then. Whose first on your list?”

“Mary. “

“Really? Don’t you think she already knows?”

“She’s probably got an inkling. But I want her to know, despite her confusion, she’s not alone and what she’s about is holy business.”

“Who’s next?”


“Ouch. Really. Don’t you think he’s going to freak out a bit? I mean, wouldn’t you?
Well, perhaps, but he’s a bit of a hothead sometimes (aren’t we all). I think he’ll come around.”


“Then, if you have time, the shepherds. If not, send the choir. Shepherds love music.
So about this tendency to frighten people. What do you recommend?”

“How about. ‘Be not afraid.’ Tell them straight from the start you mean them no harm. That you bring them peace and tidings of joy.”

“You think that’ll work?”

“Probably not. Fear is a natural response to unexpected experiences. They’ll learn to trust you if you continue to be present with them. Accompany them for a while, let them know they’re not alone. Give’m an excuse to play their instruments and join in the singing. You know. Play with them. Enjoy the experience with them.”

“We’ll alrighty then. Guess I, we, should get started. Anything else?”

“On your way home, pick up some Arabic coffee. I get the feeling this is going to be a long night.”