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Diana Butler Bass @dianabutlerbass
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Today is the Third Sunday of #Advent. There's a custom of lighting a pink candle on this day (instead of purple), to remind us of the theme of Advent 3: Joy. #SundayMorning
It is also called "Gaudete Sunday," from the Latin word for "rejoice," and an ancient prayer based in these words of scripture: "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice."
Years ago, at a particular church, I showed up on Gaudete Sunday and was not "rejoicing." Indeed, I was struggling with two life crises -- divorce and job loss -- at the same time.
A nice woman asked me how I was. I shook my head, barely able to hold back tears. She said, as she pointed to the pink candle on the Advent wreath, "You shouldn't cry. Today is Happy Sunday!"
I wanted to heave -- and leave.

Because that was the last thing I wanted to hear.
I suspect many of you feel the same. So, let's look at this in a different way. In the northern hemisphere, Advent 3 falls a few days before the shortest -- the darkest -- day of the year.
Joy isn't merely happiness (a point that many people make). And it isn't just lighting a candle in the darkness, but something more . . . more . . . transcendent. Sacred. Ineffable.

And it has something to do with waiting for God, for hope and love to be born.
These lines from Wordsworth, "Tintern Abbey":

With with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things.
"We see into the life of things."
Joy is an experience of connection. Poet Christian Wiman says of that, "between the life of things and human life...It is a great ponder the link between man and matter, and intimacies that our visions reveal, and that our daily lives so routinely violate."
That moment -- the experience of the link -- for which there are so few words -- that is joy.

When when see into the life of things.
"Rejoice Sunday," the Sunday we set aside to see into the life of things, and the Darkest Night, the deep night that is coming -- belong together.
Poet Lisel Mueller:

It's not about loss. It's about
two seeming parallel lines
suddenly coming together
inside us, in some place
that is still wilderness.
Joy, joy, the sopranos sing,
reaching for the shimmering notes
while our eyes fill with tears.
Joy is more akin to ache and longing than to happiness.
Lots of poets today -- because poets get this right.

Joy's tick is to supply
Dry lips with what can cool and slake,
Leaving them dumbstruck also with an ache
Nothing can satisfy.

--Richard Wilbur
The biblical text for Advent 3 is interesting if you learn to hear it through the vision of poetry:

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near."
If we see into the life of things, "the Lord is near."

God isn't at a distance, God isn't unknowable, God isn't absent. God is near. Look. Look for the connection, the link. The Lord is near.
The starting point of Advent 3 is that mystical insight -- that the connection of all includes God. God is part of it all with us. The Lord is near.
When I type that tweet, it takes my breathe away. The universe seems to stand still. The edges soften, the "gentleness" of that verse invades my soul. I know, with poet Yehuda Amichai, "Joy blurs everything."

But it is, oddly enough, a blurriness of seeing.
Joy is seeing softly. Opening our capacity to envision the edges, the possibilities just beyond our normal field of vision.

And then we bear witness to what we've seen.
This year, I had an experience of joy that took away words. I went on a pilgrimage to Pando, the largest (and one of the oldest) living organisms in the world. It is a quaking aspen in Utah, a "forest" of 100+ acres and 50,000 stems, of a single tree.
(Here's a bit about Pando for those of your who are interested:…)
When we were in the grove, I couldn't talk. I didn't want to hear words. I found myself thrust into a longing, a sphere of silence.

Believe me, it is weird when I can't talk.
You see, on the surface, Pando looks like 50,000 trees. But it is ONE tree. When you walk "through" the forest, you are walking on and in THE tree. Everything is connected. You find yourself almost lost IN the sense of oneness.

The link.
My fellow pilgrims wondered why I stayed on the edge, why I avoided words. Shyness? Sadness? What?

I couldn't even explain it at the time.

But I was lost in joy.
A.R. Ammons:

"I felt the perspective from space to earth...I was the mixture of joy and of a sort of mad sorrow at the lot of man."

Rejoice in all things. Because all things are connected. The Lord is near.
As a sending, take these words of theologian Jurgen Moltmann to heart. The silence, this seeing and longing, creates justice:

"Joy...motivates us to revolt against life that is destroyed and against those who destroy life...Compassion is the other side of the living joy."
A blessed third Sunday of #Advent to you. Let joy and darkness lead you into deep seeing.

@RevEdBacon @PandoPopulus A thread on Advent and joy that you'll appreciate.
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