How Does a Weary World Rejoice?
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,” 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. 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.
December 3: We Acknowledge our Weariness
Luke 1:1-23 (Zechariah & Elizabeth are promised a child) | Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19
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.
December 10: We Find Joy in Connection
Luke 1:24-45 (Gabriel visits Mary; Mary goes to Elizabeth) | Isaiah 40:1-11
In community, our joy expands. When we can’t rejoice, we can carry each other’s joy. That is what Elizabeth and Mary do for each other. Through the prophet Isaiah, we hear God speak tender words of comfort; this is the comfort we can give to and receive from each other during this season.
December 17: We Allow Ourselves to Be Amazed
Luke 1:57-66 (The birth of John) | Psalm 126
How often do you allow yourself to be amazed? Wonder is all around us—can we recognize it? As we learn how to rejoice in a weary world, can we live in a way that allows amazement and wonder to surprise us often? In Psalm 126, those who expect to reap tears are granted a surprise: shouts of joy. Amazement is a balm for the weary.
December 24 (10 AM): We Sing Stories of Hope
Luke 1:46-55 (Magnificat) | Luke 1:67-80 (Zechariah's song)
As soon as Zechariah’s voice returns, his first words are gratitude and blessing. He sings a story of praise for God’s protection and promise, and then he showers a blessing on his newborn son. After Elizabeth exclaims blessings upon Mary, Mary sings: “My soul magnifies God; my spirit rejoices in God.” As we prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth, may we also sing stories of hope, justice, and joy.
Christmas Eve (4:00 & 7:30 PM): We Make Room
Luke 2:1-20 (Nativity story)
Luke’s Gospel tells us that when Mary gives birth to Jesus, she lays him in a manger, for there was no place for them in the guest room. Scholars argue about where, exactly, the birth occurs—and why. But, regardless of where the birth occurs, we know that Christ is born in a crowded, unlikely place. And yet, God makes a place here anyway. God draws the circle wider as shepherds and unexpected guests arrive. This Christmas, let us also make room—for strangers and neighbors alike. For this is good news of great joy for all people.
December 31 (10 AM - Livestreamed) We Root Ourselves in Ritual
Luke 2:21-38 (Jesus is circumcised & presented in the temple)
After eight days have passed, Mary and Joseph circumcise their child and give him the name Jesus. They return to the temple in Jerusalem to enact the sacred birth rituals of their culture and tradition. Rituals mark sacred turning points in our lives. They can help us make meaning of celebrations, losses, and transitions. As new parents to Jesus, Mary and Joseph could feel weary for what lies ahead, but perhaps these sacred rituals—and those who bear witness to them—bolster them and give them courage for the journey ahead.