Third week of Advent: JOY! As Christmas draws near, the tremulous joy of children echoes in new generations. Frenetic stressors grip adults with unyeilding strength, and the lights of the Advent wreath flicker through the darkness. Darkness settles early now, and strings of sparkling lights punctuate night with unexpected brilliance. So it is with daily experiences: buried in the busyness are the moments truly worth treasuring. This year, Loss and Grief have become companions more than distant acquaintances. It is not just COVID or the political turmoil and vitrolic debates, not the threat of climate change or the consequences inevitable with the emergence of technology. Change has stretched past the comfortable and familiar into ambiguity and the unknown. There we dwell. And there we are reminded that the most essential factor is that we are not alone, and joy can be known in spite of broken hearts and twisted paths and incomprehensible circumstances.
Advent is the reminder that God is present in the world, and that we live within the wonder of the divine presence with or without acknowledgement of that. This year, there is a freedom in that very remembrance, a recognition of something beyond self: a God who welcomes, encourages, gifts and connects in the rolling poetry of the prophets and the dynamic prose of Paul’s Letter to the Philippians. There is a rich assurance in the passage:
Your kindness should be known to all.
The Lord is near.
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
There is also an implicit reference to leaving the stress and freneticism behind, beginning to believe that it is enough to be who we are and to acknowledge that there is a God who is near and cares tenderly for the concerns of hearts, that it is possible to find peace in trusting that there is a God who is near. It is not about rules but about relationships: living kindness with each unfolding opportunity.
Most striking is the call to kindness in the Gospel. There, it is very clear that as humans we live within parameters of governments and insitutions, but there is room for choice, for the practice of kindness at every turn. Interesting that it is not about adhering to rules but living kindness where we are. Tha capability exists within us, waits to be chosen. Maybe that is what it means to believe in God, to live in the presence of the divine. We are who we are at every moment; in every instance, we are enough. We can easily forget that Loss and Grief become companions because Love exists. And true love, the real thing, is the source of JOY. Kindness reaches across the chasm of loss with the reality of love. Kindness is our choice, the building block of relationship and the beginning of joy. Ours for the living! Happy Advent!