This past Sunday evening, the Youth Group gathered around the Advent candles in the sanctuary and read the words on the nearby banner: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love. They took turns lighting each of the candles, and then took a moment to find something in the church that reminded them of these words. Some of them returned with hymnals, others with the Welcome and Pray cards that are kept behind the chairs, symbols of belonging, and of what is shared in community. The last candle to be lit was the Christ candle, and in our waiting for the birth of the one who reconciles the world, the youth searched for something that reminded them of who Christ is, and what his life will teach us. One of the high schoolers returned with a door stop. She said that Jesus, in many ways, is a door stopper, and that is what we are called to be as well.
That has stayed with me all week. In this third week of Advent, I am searching around me for the joy that this week represents. But the truth is, I can barely read the news anymore. In reflecting on Dan’s message last week, I am searching for the Esther that we all have within ourselves, but some days I feel more connected to Mordecai, wrapped in sackcloth and ashes, mourning the loss of our queer siblings whose joy found on a dance floor was struck down, and for all who fear to live into their beautiful authenticity which is the very Imago Dei. Fear closes doors. Fear creates closets. I am seeing doors being shut all around us, and shadows cast by the light that used to be there. And I am looking for joy. We are waiting.
But I am reminded that our waiting is not stagnant, our anticipation for the joy found in the love of God alive in the most vulnerable, marginal corners of the world is the ripple that keeps us moving. Because in the midst of fear, of violence, and hatred, and everything that separates us from the love for which we were made, we don’t need to close doors, we need to widen them.