This coming weekend, we will light the third candle on the Advent wreath - the pink candle - which is a symbol of Joy.
It sure is hard sometimes to talk about joy, especially at this time of year. It's dark outside more often than it is bright. It's cooler, and if you lived in my neighborhood last weekend when the wind storms came, that coolness isn't helped by a power outage. I think that the power outage shorted my PC, too, so I'm not exactly feeling perky right now.
We light this candle not because we are joyful at the moment but because we remind ourselves that there is a reason for joy to come. As Christmas approaches, we are counting down the minutes to a day when we celebrate a truly joyful occasion. For Christians, we are recognizing that despite everything, despite our problems, our wandering our hearts, our selfish priorities, there is unconditional love for us. The unconditional love isn't far off in the distance, disconnected from us, impossible to appreciate or even fathom.
It's a love that through the birth of Jesus shows that there is no distance between humans and God. God is among us, walked and walks with us, breaks bread with us. That, surely, is something to celebrate in times when we need joy.
I nearly wept when I saw that the North Dakota pipeline path will be rerouted. Even if the next administration attempts to circumvent this decision, for now, for this moment in time, we acknowledge the worthiness of a people, their water, and their land. There's much to bring joy when people matter more than the profits of a distant investor. In the midst of the frigid plains winter, joy can still come down and quench our thirst for justice.
Earlier this weekend, on a break from the Los Angeles Episcopal Dioceses annual convention, I walked around a nearby lake, through the dwindling light as evening approached, and reveled at the way the sunset light shimmered on a water. I stood under the darkness of the trees to gaze at the serenity. It was easy to see light reflecting on the lake because there are no obstructions. And then I marveled at the way the light found a way, in a straight line like light rays travel no less, to pierce through the canopy of trees, to allow slivers of beams to shine down upon me. The rays were small, almost imperceptible, but they found me and warmed my skin nonetheless.
Like light, Joy doesn't seem possible in darkness. But it will find a way to touch you even when you least expect it, if you notice that it's been there all this time. May your eyes be opened to the joys that surround us, bridging that chasm between our darkness and the light that cannot be stopped.