The date I am writing this is December 1st, and it’s a crisp sunny day outside my window after the blustery winds and rain last night.
When I join you for worship next week, it will be the third week of Advent – Gaudete Sunday – the Sunday of Joy.
I expect many of us often struggle with Joy this month, for at least a bit of time; and for some finding Joy is definitely heavy lifting.
From our perspective as a religious community – understanding this theme as a theology, as a spiritual understanding – Joy is actually a foundational and stabilizing element of our faith. As Unitarian Universalists we believe that each and every person is important, that we should accept one another and keep on learning together, we believe in the harmony of nature and the sacred circle of life, and that we all share a sense of wonder.
These beliefs, drawn from our principles and sources, are rooted in spiritual Joy. Less an expression of exuberance or excitement, spiritual Joy is a natural and free flowing confidence of the good things in life even when we are faced with the challenges of the world.
I have read that spiritual Joy is a choice, but my sense is that it is more like a crop, a resource that we cultivate and develop.
I find Joy for myself in my spiritual practices – the routines and rituals I repeat so often that they become like muscle memory, automated in times of stress or overwhelm when I truly need their benefit, and my spirit is fed.
Right now, my first self-care practice each day includes sitting bundled against the chill on my balcony (or just inside the door depending on the weather) with my coffee, my cats, videos from a favorite TikTok creator who teaches “find your joy”, and my Bonne Maman advent calendar preserves on homemade biscuits. Starting every day this way threads the rest of my experiences along a grounded, peaceful, confidence that I can reflect back on for a sense of peace at the end of my day; it is accessible Joy, even if nothing else has gone right that day.
Think about what you need in order to feel peace at the end of the day, and develop your own practice to grow that quiet Joy in your life.