Advent in Luke’s Gospel Begins

November 26th – Advent begins – our theme this year is How Does A Weary World Rejoice

As Advent begins, we start by acknowledging the weariness, grief, rage, and hopelessness we carry—and we also affirm that we are made for joy.

Joy is often a companion to many other emotions. We can feel joy in addition to feeling many other things at once:
grief, anticipation, anxiety, excitement, disappointment, exhaustion. Perhaps many of us live with the myth that
joy is not something we deserve—or that it is wholly out of reach. But our joy is rooted in the truth that we belong
to God. Can you tether yourself to that deep truth? You deserve to feel joy—fully. The world needs your joy, even if
you are weary. Our joy is better when it is shared. This theme of course alludes to a line in the familiar Christmas hymn, “O Holy Night,”3 which has an interesting history. The song was originally written by a French poet who was atheist, and the music was supplied by a Jewish composer. The hymn was later translated into English by an American Unitarian minister. In the 1800s, it became a popular hymn for Christian abolitionists due to its justice-focused language in verse 3.4 Like Mary’s song, the hymn reminds us that justice and joy belong together. Sometimes our joy is an act of resistance. And so, this Advent, we will hold space for our weariness and our joy. We will seek a “thrill of hope” in our hurting world. We will welcome joy—even and especially if, like the prophet Isaiah, we cry out for comfort (Isaiah 40:1). In this weary world, may we find many ways to rejoice.

“I lost my grandfather (Poppa) about 10 months ago. He and I called each other soulmates. He died 17 days after my son
was born. As I fell onto the floor in grief, all I could think about was the joy I would’ve experienced seeing them meet. Joy and grief are dancing partners. Darkness and light cannot exist without the contrast between them. My son and I often sit on our porch swing, and one of his favorite things is to watch the wind chimes my grandfather made twirl in the wind and sing improvised songs. The work of my Poppa’s hands delights my son, and in that I find an inexplicable joy. Each Advent we practice rejoicing in a hope that is promised but not yet realized in a world that feels like it is breaking apart in every way. How does a weary world rejoice? I don’t know. But, I think I’ll start with acknowledging my weariness,
finding joy in connection, allowing myself to be amazed, singing stories of hope, making room, rooting myself in ritual,
and trusting in my belovedness.” —Rev. Lauren Wright Pittman, Director of Branding, Founding Creative Partner

“I am concerned, weighed down, unable to solve it all—or really any of it. Mental health crisis, opioid crisis, gun
violence, war, illness—we grieve. In grief, we are on edge, more aware of the pain, struggling to be sure that we are
thinking clearly. Yet in grief, we also respond viscerally in a loving, more open way. We are attuned to our neighbors’
needs, for they seem to be more at-hand, louder in our psyche. We are more able to follow our gut and intuition
through challenges that are inexplicable. Perhaps we should have been following it all along. In grief, I find that I am
unearthing the positives—not in the realization of life-long dreams and goals. No. The positives are embedded in the
minutiae of life—freely and beautifully given. When I cannot see a positive, I take another breath, a slower step, and
I look again, more closely. For Her grace—the grace of our Holy Mother God—is found in the details of a moment.”
—Hannah Garrity, Founding Creative Partner

“On December 24th, 2021, Omicron was wreaking havoc on New York City. The lines for COVID tests were wrapping
around city blocks. Officials were urging people to double-mask. Hospitals were overflowing, and every hour, I received
text messages from people saying, ‘I tested positive. I needed someone to know.’ As a pastor in the heart of Midtown,
I was washed with fear, anxiety, and grief when I realized that my church would be one of the few Presbyterian
churches offering in-person worship that Christmas Eve. Would I be safe? Would people come? Would it feel like
Christmas? Once again, COVID was stealing our rituals. Once again, the city was sick. Once again, joy felt out of
reach. So I sat down at my computer and wrote a poem titled, ‘How Does a Weary World Rejoice?’ It was an effort
to sift through the pain of that day, to still my scattered mind, and to put some words on paper that might serve as
breadcrumbs on the way to joy. Two years later, and I’m still asking myself that same question. Fortunately, I have
found that our sacred texts provide some answers. How does a weary world rejoice? Day by day, and with God’s help.”
—Rev. Sarah Speed, Founding Creative Partner

“I distinctly remember the first time I laughed after my grandmother died. I was standing in my kitchen when joy
interrupted my mourning like a loud dinner guest. Almost immediately, I felt ashamed. This is no time for joy, I thought.
As I processed my emotional dissonance, I wondered why I felt so uncomfortable by joy’s intrusion. When did I decide
that joy didn’t belong with my grief? Who told me that joy is selfish? Wouldn’t my grandmother love to hear the
sound of my laughter? I’ve decided that joy is a companion emotion. Almost always, it comes alongside other feelings:
excitement, sadness, exhaustion, relief, apprehension. It’s also a transformative emotion; joy changes you. It can shift
your perspective. It can bring warmth to those around you. It will certainly lighten your load. And so, this Advent season,
if you ever find yourself thinking, ‘this is no time for joy,’ then I hope you’ll reconsider. I hope you’ll allow joy to be your
surprise guest.” —Rev. Lisle Gwynn Garrity, Founder, Creative Director

“My first pregnancy was due just days before Christmas. I imagined giving birth amidst the singing of ‘Joy to the
World,’ but nine weeks into the pregnancy—the Wednesday after Mother’s Day—I miscarried. I spent the long Texas summer mourning the loss. By the time December finally came, I was four months pregnant with a daughter who
would be born on Easter. As I prepared the nursery that winter, my joy was interrupted by a wave of grief for the
child I never met, the child who would have been arriving in days, not months. In the midst of what everyone saw
as a joyous season, for me there was this hidden pain I felt I needed to tuck away. My grief felt so unearned, but so
did my joy. So if you are weary this season, if you feel like joy is out of reach, undeserved, or fleeting, if your pain is
tucked away in the closet with the Christmas presents, I hope you’ll find comfort sitting with Mary, Zechariah, and
the shepherds as angels bring their greetings of ‘Do not fear.’”
—Rev. Anna Strickland, Operations Support & Content Creator