“May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy. Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.” (Psalm 126:5-6)
One of the most remarkable people I have ever read about is a woman named Maggy Barankitse, who is the founder and leader of an organization called Maison Shalom. Following the genocide in her home country of Burundi, Maggy sought a way to work for the welfare of children growing up in a community ravaged by violence and war. And so, she established an orphanage and a school. In one interview, though, Maggy shared that her vision was much bigger than that: she wanted the children not only to survive and have their basic needs met, but to
, which meant to her that they had to be given the opportunity to experience joy. So, with help, Maggy had a swimming pool dug into what were formerly killing fields, so that, in her words, the children could splash in the waters of baptism in a place that was once only a place of death and destruction.
Hope after pain. I can’t think of a more perfect way to describe what that might look like than to think about what Maggy’s pool did for the children in her care. It was an act of creative love that communicated her hope for them, which is that they wouldn’t only be defined by the tragedies they’d experienced. A hope that their lives might still be rich, if not without deep pain. That they might have access to joy.
I have heard it said that joy is the present experience of hope. Those who are joyful know that present circumstances are not final, that God’s love is faithful, that Christ is coming - and that this changes everything. That is what Advent joy is about: as we watch and wait for our hope to be born into the world, we join in the psalmist’s prayer for all of God’s children who have experienced tragedy, loss, or (in the case of the psalm) exile. We who follow Christ can share his joy in many ways. We can pray. We can listen. We can cry. We can feed. We can remember difficult anniversaries and check in with those whose hearts are heavy. We can light candles. In Advent, we can open our hearts to the one in whom “the hopes and fears of all the years” meet, and are redeemed.
Pay attention when we light the Joy candle this year: with whom will you share your joy, as we wait for the realization of our hope?