Monday morning I sat down to write for this blog. I grabbed a coffee mug, presuming it would be stamped with the Peacehaven grasshopper only to find that it said “joy.” In many Christian traditions the four weeks leading up to Christmas are known as Advent. Conveniently this past Sunday, December 17th, was the third Sunday in Advent and many churches lit the rose colored candle signifying...you guessed it, joy.
Ironically, I already decided that I wanted to write about grief. So, imagine my surprise as I swigged my lukewarm coffee with the word joy challenging me at every sip. This is that season. It is the time when darkness creeps in on us. For many joy is as undetectable as the shortening of the days to the winter solstice. Joy and grief during the holidays, tango together, swirling us around at a moments notice unsure at which partner is taking the lead for each step.
Music may tell us that this is “The most wonderful time of the year,” and wish that “Our days be merry and bright,” but somewhere deep down we may find those lyrics only echo grief in the hollows of our souls. In 2017, Peacehaven has been full of transition. We have had personal deaths of family and friends, loss of co-workers, and said goodbye to many folks exuberantly taking different step in their life. All of this transition, positive and negative, causes grief. Grief challenges us to remember how things were, and put ourselves back together with a pieces missing. It can be dark, but like the winter season, darkness is a part of the cycle.
About a month ago, I helped lead a Service of Remembrance at Peacehaven. One ritual we practiced was lighting a candle and saying the name of the person whom we would like to remember. For some of us, the grief was fresh or even anticipatory. For others, it was many years and many cycles later. But we were faithful to not fear or hide from the darkness. Instead, we chose to cast light into it, even if that meant manufacturing it ourselves.
On a fold up table in the barn, votives lit, and surrounded tears, smiles, and clasped hands, we manufactured light. At each flick of the butane lighter, we may have even cast some joy, and released some pain, into the darkness.
This week I would challenge all of us, no matter our religious or non-religious tradition, to light a candle for joy. Maybe this is for you, or someone you love. Try and light it, knowing that it may taste bitter like lukewarm mid-morning coffee. Light it, knowing there may be darker and colder days ahead. Light it, embracing that its warmth and glow are deeper and truer than any flashing bulb you may see dazzle in the night. Light it, knowing that life and death is joy and grief, not joy or grief. Light it, because you can, and because we can.
Happy Holidays to All. May your light glow into the places of deepest darkness, bringing inexplicable joy.
Courtney Stamey, Pastoral Resident