The holy season of Advent comes ‘round every year. As long as we live here, there are Decembers after Novembers and before Januaries. Think and pray backward with me, if you will, through the Advents of your life and the life of your family and the life of your congregation and community.
I can imagine there were Advents when you were falling in love or in the midst of some other glorious adventure. There were Advents for welcoming new babies. There were Advents when the church seemed to hum and glow with joyful anticipation of our Savior. There were Advents of warm neighbor love in our communities.
I can imagine there were Advents when your heart was breaking. Advents of wilderness wandering. Advents spent deep in the valley of shadows. There were fractious Advents in our faith communities. There were hungry Advents. Advents in times of war.
Rich, Brigit, and I are recently home from days of intense learning and fellowship with our colleagues on the staffs of the Conferences of the United Church of Christ, along with the officers of our national Collegium, led by members of the MESA (Ministerial Excellence, Support, and Authorization) team in our national setting. Among the conversations that stirred through our break times were conversations about whether or not it was good and right to light the joy candle in our Advent wreaths this year. Might it remain unlit as a witness to pain, violence, and injustice in our communities?
The discernment of most became: no. The holy season of Advent comes ‘round every year. It catches us where we are. It is meant to catch us where we are. This Sunday, in our homes and in our congregations, we will light the joy candle. We may light it with hearts so full of joy our words and even our songs are too small to name it well. We may light it with tears streaming down our cheeks. We may light it trembling with fear or anger.
But we will light it. We will light it as our witness to a joy that the world does not give and cannot remove. We will light it as our witness to the promise we will proclaim as the Christ candle is lit on Christmas Eve: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:5)
With deep gratitude for the light of Christ and for Christ light that shines through each of you,
Jonna Jensen, Associate Conference Minister