HOPE. PEACE. JOY. LOVE.
Sunday, December 20 - Fourth Sunday of Advent
Ann Van Buskirk, member of RPC since 2015
Comfort, O Comfort my people - Isaiah 40:1
Blessed are those who weep, for their tears will be wiped away. - Matthew 5:4
"Oh tidings of Comfort and Joy, Comfort and Joy, Oh tidings of Comfort and Joy." During this season of Advent, it is easy to look around and see the happiness on the faces of those around us - folks greeting family in the airport, picking up just the right gift with a smile, singing with a smile in church. Yet I am reminded that happiness and joy are not the same thing. Happiness can be fleeting and often depends upon what is happening in my life and in the lives of those around me. Joy has been described as "an elevation of one's spirit" and is an inward state. I personally would prefer to feel both happiness and joy. I love it when our family picks out the tree all together without bickering, or when everyone is healthy and home for Christmas, or when the children that I work with all have enough medicine and food.
But if Advent is the time that we look forward to the birth of Emmanuel, "God with us", when I am honest, the times that I most feel the presence of God is when comfort is paired with joy, just as in the old carol. It is in the miscarriage that we suffered as I entered my second trimester, or in the diagnosis of a brain disease for my dear mother, or in the face of the deep depression of a colleague that I become aware of my deepest need. I do not feel any happiness, but it is in those times that I cry out to God and feel His comfort. It is in those times that I know my need for "God With Us" and can allow His presence to elevate my spirit and edge me toward joy.
Often during the holidays we are generous to those poor in material wealth, or without a home, which can be easy to recognize. But what about those whose hearts lack shelter from the ravages of loneliness, or whose minds are lost in a storm of anxiety or depression? What of those who are grieving or battling illness? This Advent, as we prepare to celebrate with joy the Incarnation of God's love and His sacrificial desire to be "With Us", I hope that I remember that God has not promised me happy life circumstances, but that in the promise of Emmanuel I am blessed with both comfort and joy. And I hope that I will in my own imperfect way be an agent of comfort in the lives of those around me, so that they too may know the joy of God's love.
God our loving Parent - thank you for your care and concern for us your children. Son - our dearest Friend - thank you for the sacrificial love you gave in becoming Emmanuel, the Incarnation of God With Us. Holy Spirit our Comforter - make us mindful of your constant presence and lead us into joy. May I be an agent of comfort and joy this Advent, filled with your love and compassion, for others and for myself. Amen