This is the next instalment in a year of guest posts on Joy as part of my year of focussing on joy (my word for the year). This month I am delighted that we have a post from Sam Hailes. Sam is a writer, deputy editor at Premier Christianity Magazine and an avid tweeter – follow him @samhailes or on his Facebook page.
Prior to 2009, you’d be forgiven for snorting at my decision to put the words ‘joy’ and ‘Coldplay’ in the same sentence. Up until fairly recently, the pop-rock band were known primarily for their ballads. Early in their career they penned ‘The Scientist’ which included the lyrics, ‘What if I got it wrong / And no poem or song / Could put right what I got wrong’. The somberness seemed to reach a peak with 2005’s ‘Fix You’ where lead singer Chris Martin croons ‘Tears stream down your face’.
Something seemed to change circa 2009. Off the back of their gloomily titled album Viva la Vida / Death and all his friends, the band released Mylo Xyloto and suddenly the 4 piece burst into life, dancing around stages singing about (para para para) Paradise. There was even a song on that album called ‘A Hopeful Transmission’. Things were looking up.
Earlier this week I found myself inside Wembley stadium with 75,000 other Coldplay fans. We sang, we danced and we celebrated. We belted out lyrics about ‘cathedrals in my heart’ and ‘oh thanks God, must have heard when I prayed cause now I always want to feel this way’. It was a party atmosphere. There were fireworks, balloons and lights. The latter shone everywhere – not just from the stage but also from our wrists.
I believe that experiencing a Coldplay gig is in many ways a foretaste of the joys we will experience in heaven. Obviously there are differences (we won’t be worshipping Chris Martin, and there’ll be less drunk people). But when you’re standing in a stadium with thousands of other people, all singing the same songs, you do catch a glimpse of something beyond yourself. It’s almost a religious experience as you’re caught up in an atmosphere that’s bursting with joy and celebration.
All of this is to a large degree ineffable. But Chris Martin may well agree with some of my sentiment. He’s from a Christian background and once said, ‘I definitely believe in God. How can you look at anything and not be overwhelmed by the miraculousness of it’.
The miraculous of life is something most people don’t take time to consider. I was struck recently by a comment by American comedian Pete Holmes who said, ‘We live on a planet, and I’m sick of no one talking about it!’ It’s so easy to forget the miraculous nature of the world we live in.
But Coldplay seem to have grasped this. The miraculous comes through in their songs. At one point in the show, Martin sang, ‘I think I landed where there are miracles at work’. It reminded me of Martin Luther’s comment ‘The world is full of everyday miracles’. The world is a miraculous place to live. As human beings we need opportunities to marvel at the beauty of the world we live in.
There were without doubt moments of joy in Wembley stadium this week. But whatever feel-good-feelings I may have encountered there are only a taste of something much greater. I’ve often heard it said that happiness is momentary and is dependent on (good) circumstances. Joy, on the other hand is everlasting and will run regardless of circumstances. I think there’s a lot of truth to this.
At one point in the evening, we sang, ‘under this pressure under this weight / we are diamonds taking shape’. As a Christian, I take great joy in knowing that when the brief moment of happiness contained in a 2 hour gig finishes and the pressures and weights of life come, God is shaping me. And he’s not shaping me despite these pressures and weights. He’s shaping me through them and because of them.
In the words of Coldplay’s ‘Kaleidoscope’…
This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival
A joy, a depression, a meanness
Some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor
Welcome and entertain them all!
Be grateful for whoever comes
Because each has been sent as a guide