“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances …”(1 Thess. 5:16)
As we approach this coming Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent, the lessons for lectionary-based denominations shift. In church, we would be lighting two purple (or blue) candles and one rose (pink) candle. Our lessons would point to joy: liberation to captives, release to prisoners, comfort to all who mourn.
It’s more than challenging to rejoice in the middle of such a long and life-altering period of time. We can be forgiven if the words of Isaiah and Paul to the Thessalonians first quoted, can fall flat and even hollow.
I recall when the movie “The Hiding Place” was first released. We lived in Georgia at the time and were active with our local UMC church. We took our youth group to see the movie.
A scene that stood out to me was Corrie Ten Boom, incarcerated at Buchenwald with her sister, quoted Paul as she and her sister led a secret bible study in their block.
All the women were plagued with lice. She said they should give thanks for the lice because it meant the Kapos left them alone, not wanting to come into the infested quarters.
Wow. Who gives thanks for lice while the world is going mad and death is all around? Was she giving thanks as her sister died of typhus from those tiny beasties?
Their crime was hiding and helping Jewish men, women and children to escape from the Nazis. The sisters were denounced. They were already living in the worst hard times, which became even worse.
Those times did end, but the emerging world changed. The survivors were changed. The carnage set in motion the global environment that came to be “normal” for the next 75 years.
So how does one find joy in times of dramatic upheaval? We want these times to end. I want these times to end.
But … There are things about these times that I like. Thanks to Zoom, I have actually seen our newest great-grandchildren more than I ever would have otherwise. The phone lines still work. Shopping is vastly simplified.
Food? Yes. Click List works just fine. Meds? Most pharmacies deliver. Books? Amazon Kindle, local library pickup. Wardrobe? PJs are so comfy.
Mask? Not so bad. Wearing one is a message that in these times, I care about others, not just myself.
These are not the times we wished for. These are the times we have.
This Longest Advent in my lifetime offers opportunities not to be found in busier “normal” times.
I wonder, for those of us who manage to survive this winter, get the vaccine and move forward, I wonder: Will we look back on these days with a certain longing, or even a bit of regret? Will we look back and long for these enforced days of quiet? Will we regret wishing these days away?
Every day in God’s grace is its own day to rejoice.
Every day presents a choice, rejoice or resent, especially in long, hard times
Rev. Elaine Silverstrim is a retired Episcopal priest, a member of the Wilmington Area Ministerial Association, and a resident of Wilmington.
This weekly column is provided to the News Journal by members of the Wilmington Area Ministerial Association.