We are now into week 3 of advent. We have lit the third candle and began forming our advent practices and daily meditations to transition into Joy.
This is the week when we begin to see Joy or at least we begin to search for it. We have walked from hope to preparation to joy, now knowing that “something” is happening; something is beginning. And this week of joy allows us to confidently look ahead and claim the promise that is coming so soon. The promise of Emmanuel. As a runner, when I think of this third week of advent, I think of coming around the corner of your race route and catching a glimpse of the finish line for the very first time.
But I have to admit that if I was choosing a word to describe my advent journey here at week 3, I would definitely not pick joy.
Joy is not the word of my heart this week.
And can you blame me?
I feel some comfort knowing that I cannot be the only one struggling with the practice of Joy this week. Our Holiday and Advent season has been intruded by death, anger, racial injustice, heartbreak, loneliness, and betrayal. Whatever your processing looks like during so many of the recent events in the world–from Ferguson to the Peshawar school children–it has been a heavy Advent.
Even as I think about what my advent has looked like while doing a year of service. The last few weeks have brought some deep heartache and some really hard stuff as my time here involves learning to live in community with 5 other people, the exhausting experience of working at a nonprofit, and the harsh realities of working with kids from hard places. Joy is definitely not how I would describe these moments.
A few days ago our house had our Advent/ Christmas party. We went ice skating downtown, had a huge dinner, and even a white elephant gift exchange. At the beginning of the day I lead an Advent activity where we did some reading and then were given space to think through what word, any word, best described where we were right now in our processing and journeying of Advent. It was great, and I loved seeing how each of us were experiencing Advent differently.
I chose the word Watch.
When I think of this word and how I feel about Advent right now,I think of
A glimmer of Hope
But Hope and Joy held cautiously at arms length.
Watch isn’t quite Wait, because a part of my tired heart is not quite sure whether it will find and feel that Joy this year.
There is even some waves of frustration and guilt that wash over me as I think about trying to claim joy right now. My heart is not in it….yet?
And yet, in the midst of my one arm out, crispy heart, the purpose of Advent is pursuing me. Even as I consider throwing out the word Joy altogether. Because I know that Christ pulled on flesh and showed up to be with us–our Emmanuel–for those who were anxiously awaiting his coming. Like the Prophetess Anna who faithfully claimed Hope and Joy and took them with her to the stairs of the Temple everyday, waiting for her beloved Savior.
But Christ also came for the tired souls. The ones who were too burnt-out to get out of bed.
Christ came for the those who have been waiting to share deep Joy and Love with their neighbors this Advent season.
And he also came for those whose Advent is too heavy to hold this year.
Who might be surrounded by a little more darkness at this time than light.
The people who don’t feel worthy of claiming Joy.
Emmanuel came to be with those who aren’t actively searching for joy right now. Maybe they have even turned their wearied shoulder away. But I know for myself, we are still peaking over our shoulder, longing for that glimpse of light.
Which is why I will Watch at week 3 and see how the rest of my Advent unfolds. And I am grateful for dear friends and loved ones “in my corner” who are Watching with me.
Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free
From our fears and sins release us
Let us find our rest in Thee
Photo cred: Anne Nesser