Newsletter, Advent–Christmas 2020:  Rediscovering Joy!

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“O God, who makest us glad with the yearly remembrance of the birth of thy only Son Jesus Christ…” 

Dear Members and Friends,

So begins the Collect of the Nativity of Our Lord, the words that I would intone with fervent solemnity, were we able to assemble in our sanctuary in order to observe, in liturgical splendor, a ritual that we could almost execute without aid of Prayer Book and Hymnal.  Circumstances beyond our control prohibit that traditional, beautiful, candle-lit Christ-Mass.  So, wherefore ought we to be joyful?  Where is the joy that we desire and so desperately need to propel us forward in these dark winter months?  If this letter were not written on parish stationary and, thus, not available to public scrutiny, I would say “2020 sucked.”  But, as a priest of the Church, I may not say such a thing.  Yet, I can acknowledge and empathize with you in our mutual bewilderment at the felt absence of joy.

However, I hope to do us one better.  With a little help from you, we can rediscover joy.  First, to redeem myself for daring to think in the vernacular, I can imagine that Joseph and Mary, with the birth of their son so near, will most certainly have had little reason to be joyful, preferring to have remained at home, where they knew the midwives and the midwives knew them.   There was surely no joy for them in their journey.  No comfortable limousine.  No paved interstates.  Unfamiliar surroundings.  Possible complications, if not calamities of birthing.  Unfamiliar faces.  Yet, for them—and also for us—JOY did not desert them, and they, too, had only a few folks around to help them celebrate.  Like Mary and Joseph, we have within us, the power to REDISCOVER JOY, if we but listen to that “still small voice,” that served to ground Elijah the Prophet.

We must, each of us, so I believe, chart our own path to recover the joy that has never left us, but lies perhaps dormant within us.  I share with you my path:

  • Each day I go outside, no matter the weather, always wearing a mask and, weather permitting, walk through my neighborhood. Or I stand on the covered rear veranda and watch the clouds glide or rush by, or the sun decline all too soon on the horizon.  Outside, I marvel at the wonders of creation and utter silently to an unseen Creator “how great thou art!”Happy Dogs
  • Each day, thanks to science and modern technology (the old-fashion telephone and the newfangled visual WhatsApp), I connect with family and friends abroad and at home in the US. And I welcome a visit from Momo, my younger daughter’s rescue dog, as she makes her inspection rounds through the neighborhood, to greet me with her almost “inflight” jumps and twists, proclaiming her unconditional love, that brings a smile to my face and a warmth that casts all darkness aside.
  • Each day, I ask myself what I have accomplished, be it ever so slight or of no immediate significance in the wider society. This Advent-Christmas season, that has been for me to immerse myself again in restoring my foundation in Swedish—German and English being reckoned to me as native tongues.  I want to be prepared to converse again with those friends in the Land of the Midnight Sun, when once the pandemic no longer holds me prisoner and I am able to travel abroad.

You see, as self-centered as my own path to REDISCOVERING JOY may on the surface seem—again, you must devise your own path—it is my firm belief that the birth of Jesus was intended to bring light and joy into the world, into our individual lives.  It is also my firm belief that Joy is contagious.  I am happy, filled with an indescribable feeling of well-being, when I observe others, even the stranger, smile.  Joy has not deserted us.  Remembering Christ’s birth reassures you and me of that.  Rediscovering Joy?  It is there for the uncovering.

Absent though we must presently be, one from the other, we may still pray with sincerity:

O God, who makest us glad with the yearly remembrance of the birth of thy only Son Jesus Christ: Grant that as we joyfully receive him for our Redeemer, so we may with sure confidence behold him, when he shall come to be our Judge; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.  Amen.

Most humbly your servant in The Way,
Clarence E. Butler+