By Chrissy Tatum Williamson
How does a weary world rejoice?
It must have been early June when the staff began planning the 2023 Advent season. We shared some possible series themes with the Adult Christian Education Committee (now called the Adult Faith Formation Council) and prayed for wisdom in discerning which themes might speak to our congregation in these important weeks leading up to Christmas. About that time, A Sanctified Art released their theme: How Does a Weary World Rejoice?. I think it’s safe to say, we all knew this would deeply resonate with the people at Greystone.
This last year has been FULL. Full of events, extracurricular activities, social gatherings, and more as the whole world is emerging from COVID-19 shut downs. At the same time, Greystone members dealt with difficult diagnoses and layers of grief that continue to consume our hearts and minds. Still, we have embraced and engaged in difficult topics of conversation like sexuality, gender, and financial stewardship.
While all of these (and so many more unnamed) contribute to our shared state of weariness, there have been moments of great joy. The welcoming of new members into our community, the sharing of communion, weddings and family dedications, births, graduations, mission trip commissionings… the list goes on and on. Through it all these glimpses of God’s joyful presence among us persist and continue to amaze us.
Though we know that joy will come and surprise us, we’d like to know how to find it when we need it most.
Toward that end (and admittedly knowing that this Advent theme was coming), I have been on a personal quest for joy since June! I’ve been looking for places where joy resides, trying to notice when joy is palpable and when it is not. I’ve been reading books on joy, and I’ve been testing some of my own theories around what consistently brings joy.
First, I would encourage everyone to conduct a joy experiment during Advent. Test your own theories about what might bring you joy. Maybe jot them down in a journal. Maybe name it your “Joy Journal,” that itself might spark joy every time you see it. Anyway, test your own theories about how you might discover joy in the midst of everything else life has thrown your way. Let me know what you learn!
My journey toward joy isn’t over yet. Honestly, I hope it never ends.
Even though the journey is really just beginning, I have already learned some things that I hope to remember as reliable joy-inspirers (or joy-invokers). So here, on the brink of the Advent season, a season in which we are asking the (very not-rhetorical) question: How does a weary world rejoice? I want to share one thing that has helped me rejoice:
In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus travels to the house of Mary and Martha. Martha busies herself with the necessary work of hospitality, while Mary sits at Jesus’ feet.
We are programmed to work like Martha; often toward good and righteous ends. What could be more holy than hosting Jesus himself? And yet, this Gospel story reminds us that rest is also (if not more) important than getting things done. Though this message may seem like a minority report in a collection of scriptures that ask us to do things, it echoes a refrain of Sabbath that is consistent throughout the Bible. Could it be that Sabbath is a critical ingredient in the recipe of joy?
With this Gospel story as my guide and Tricia Hersey’s book, Rest is Resistance, fresh on my mind, I have been discovering ways to become more intentional about rest. For me, this intentionality includes taking a Sunday afternoon nap in a hammock on the back porch, even if I only have 20 minutes to steal between obligations. It means sitting down for a few minutes after eating a meal, even if the dishes aren’t done yet. It means allowing the dogs to slow down evening productivity, because they need a slow and leisurely walk, and that’s OK. I have learned that intentional rest will interrupt my ability to get things done, to produce things, to accomplish something… and that reliably makes space for joy.
So, if you were to ask me, “How does a weary world rejoice?”
My first response would probably be: Rest.
The lessons from this experiment have informed our planning of the Advent season for Greystone. Instead of loading up the calendar with tons of events, we prioritized a slower pace, a lighter calendar, an opportunity for rest. As a team, we hope to be intentional about finding moments to rest.. and we hope that you will too.
For the season, there are many resources (created by A Sanctified Art) to help inspire us toward joy even in the midst of weariness. Those resources can be found here, on this special Advent page on our website. Additionally, there are some printed materials (advent calendars for children, youth & adults, schedule of gatherings, etc.) that you can pick up at the church. If you have questions about any of these resources or if you need help accessing them, please call the church office. We’re happy to help!
As we prepare for the season of Advent together, I will continue my joy experiment, and as I do, I’ll be praying for you. Praying that you might also conduct an experiment toward joy, and that the God of joy might meet you somewhere along the way.
What is making you weary?
How will you make more space for joy it in your life?
Where might you find joy?
How does a weary world rejoice?