March 2020 -- that time when everything seemed to come to a grinding halt and the world as we knew it changed forever. Then Easter approached and we heard promises we’d be back in the sanctuary for worship services and hope filled the air. And yet, we weren’t, and some amount of despair set in to our souls. In fact, I’m not sure it’s ever fully gone.
Back then, the week after Easter, I reimagined the famous quote from How the Grinch Stole Christmas, “It came without candies. It came without tags. It came without baskets, bunnies or bags.” No matter our surprise, Easter came and so, too, will Christmas.
The lessons from the Grinch remain a perfect reminder of God’s willingness to break into our lives even without all the hoopla we expect. God is present and always coming, even when we aren’t gathered together in sanctuaries. This Christmas perhaps we’re being given a rare opportunity to remember that.
So, this week I invite you to leave the disorienting fog that has hung in the air since Easter. Be confident, in whatever decisions you’ve made (and remade and remade again) and experience the gift of joy. Do not let yourself be pulled down into thinking this Christmas is any less than it should be. This Christmas is what we need, exactly as it is.
This past Sunday, as my daughter and I watched our church service online from the comfort of our living room couch, she asked questions about a song we sang, “O Come O Come Emmanuel.”
“What does Emmanuel mean?,” she asked.
“It’s another name we use for God,” I said, “It means God with us.”
She continued, “why does it say rejoice?”
“It’s a word for joy,” I explained. “It means we have so much joy that God is coming; that’s what we celebrate this season.”
The conversation was a simple reminder to me of our need for joy, even—and perhaps most especially—in despair. Church, don’t lose sight of joy, especially now.
Although this season’s been hard, I am not discouraged because I’ve seen and experienced joy. Joy is in our churches, spread through a drive-through cookie open-house, and a light up night, and homemade Advent boxes, and outdoor worship.
Joy is in my home when my son hums along loudly to every song in his musical Christmas book. Joy is in thinking about each one of my colleagues who are finding amazing ways to be the church in our midst this year. Joy is all around us, God with us. As 2020 nears an end, and Christmas comes, find your joy. Yet even more, share it.
“For behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.” (Luke 2:10)