This is the fourth time that I have preached or studied Mary’s Magnificat and everytime I return to it, I hear it as something new. The first time I could only relate to her as a young woman. The second time, I was a mother grieving a miscarraige. Today, I hear the tones of her song as an anthem for justice, a cry for hope, and I hear just how much she grasps the very “now and not yet” nature of where she stands. As a woman who birthed a child during a pandemic, my body understands this juxtaposition in a whole new way. I know what it feels like to hold the anxiety and fear of the world in your body, while also holding pure joy.
This Christmas, as I mourn the loss of my grandmother who died at 91 years old just before Thanksgiving, I’m reminded of what it feels like to hold joy and grief together. For me, joy and grief are two sides of the same coin, they sharpen each other into focus. Exploring your own personal grief opens you up to the grief of others. If you allow it, grief will deepen your appreciation for life, make you see the world with brighter colors, make you notice the injustice all around you and wake you up to joy.
Here we are on the journey toward Christmas. This is supposed to be a time when we are reminded that there is an inbreaking of light in the world, but as we look around it can be hard to believe. This past weekend alone, hundreds died or lost their homes from tornadoes that ripped through four states in the middle of December. Another Covid surge is looming, people are still fighting for life, and that’s to say nothing of the ongoing problems of peace, racism, hunger, violence and war all around the world and right outside your door. We’ve done ourselves a disservice by putting so much emphasis on the hope, joy and love of the Christmas season. Because in order to understand why someone would choose joy in the darkness, you first have to get to know the darkness. You need to know the low in order to understand and appreciate the high.
After the angel Gabriel departs Mary in Luke 1, she runs to the arms of her friend Elizabeth, a woman very different from her in age, status and experience, yet they are united as pregnant women, overjoyed at the blessing they’ve received from their God. I always look for the ways scripture pushes us into the arms of community. I just wish we got more of the story of the three months these women spent together, three months of joy, laughter, worry and support. I believe the best we have to offer one another as women, the best we can offer each other as leaders embarking on unknown journeys, is the power of community, of being present with one another on the journey.
May you find those in your community who bring you joy on the journey.
May your grief lead you into the arms of others and may you know what it means to celebrate in the midst of it all.