Isaiah 35:10 (NRSV) And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
This is an Advent unlike any most of us have ever experienced, a season to fall to our knees in prayer. Advent is a season of introspection, a time of reflecting upon the upcoming birth of the baby in the manger; as well as Christ’s presence among us today through the movement of the Holy Spirit. Advent is a time of expectation and hope as we pause each day in prayer to remember why God came to us in the form of a real, flesh and blood baby – a reason for joy.
This Advent, perhaps more than any time since the pandemic I miss the practice of going to church each Sunday. I miss the gathered community joining their voices singing beautiful Advent hymns and Christmas carols. I miss the multi-generational fellowship that is unique in faith communities, and the funny things kids say during the children’s sermon. Claiming that each of us have been created in God’s image, it’s no wonder that at times I even feel a little distant from God’s presence in the isolation of our current situation.
As a newly retired Presbyterian clergy person (July 2020), John (my spouse) and I have found ourselves “homeless” as far as church goes. It’s been disorienting not to have those connections or a church to call “home,” but after zooming in on all of the prospective churches on our short list of progressive and inclusive churches in our neighborhood, we find that we have joined in with you on most Sunday mornings since mid-August. And although we are tuned in to the local, national and global news more than ever before with all of the challenges we have faced in 2020, the footprint of our individual lives feels like it has shrunk to a small bubble as we continue to try to do our part in flattening the curve.
Thanks to UPark’s staff amazing staff for widening our horizons and bringing joy into our home each week as we follow that light to Bethlehem trusting that the baby born to Mary and Joseph will continue to bring us hope and joy in this season of darkness. He is with us always.
On a side note, if you haven’t read it, I highly recommend “The Book of Joy” by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa. It’s several years old now and one of the few books on my shelf worth a second read. The authors start with the premise that joy is much bigger than happiness. Happiness is often seen as being dependent on external circumstances such as your new car or your latest vacation while joy comes from and includes feelings such as pleasure, wonder, contentment, and gratitude. Joy really is the peace that surpasses all understanding, the presence of the risen Christ in our midst.
Please pray with me: God, you are the joy-filled giver of life. Let the anticipation of the birth of your son born to a poor peasant girl fill us with abundant joy. You never fail us and your light continues to shine a path to bring us hope and love, and even joy into a world that sometimes feels overwhelming. Let us be beacons of your love. Shine your Spirit through each of us so our anticipation of the birth of the baby will be a sign of hope and joy to all those whom we meet along the way. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.