Yesterday, my colleague preached an amazing sermon based on the Psalm 126 and Isaiah 61 texts from the lectionary on the recovery of joy. He polled the congregation via e-mail about what brings us joy and spent time reviewing his findings, along with helping us claim the texts for the morning as places where we can say nevertheless, even in the midst of great uncertainty. It was certainly a word I needed to hear.
Confirmation class, with a bunch of pretty insightful 8th graders, brought us discussion about "future grace", recognizing that we'll all need it. Then, about 40 children, youth and adults hopped on a bus and went caroling, a tradition that goes way back in our congregation. Visiting two memory units at a local assisted living facility was very difficult for me, as I thought about my own mom and this fist Christmas without her. After a soup supper back at the church, our usual Sunday evening adult forum looked at three excerpts from "Religion and Ethics Newsweekly" on topics as diverse as Hispanics and the Roman Catholic Church in the US, World AIDS day, and the rise of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.
It feels necessary to me to focus on what is, rather than what itsn't this year. I am missing my mother terribly, am saddened at the thought of my dad being unable to be with us this year and opening presents alone. I am sad thinking about those who struggle to identify joy in their lives and it prompts me to spend a little time there, to pray and to offer a hand to those who confide in me that this season feels like an endurance march rather than a joyful dance. I am heartened to spend as much time thinking about what is: I have a dad I can call or e-mail anytime and the joyful task of findng just the right gift for him, as my mother would have done. It is good to have family close by to hug and love. I am blessed beyond words with great friends and colleagues.
I walk a fine line this Advent, between sorrow and joy, grief that is still new and real, and hope that the gift and task of ministry...of living....ultimately sorts out into blessing that outweighs the sorrow