Advent 2022: Joy Incarnate

Published December 13, 2022 by Michael Raimer-Goodman

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. (Isaiah 55:12)

Jesus replied, "If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." (Luke 19:40)

International Women's Day, March 8, 2022. Meru County, Kenya.

We didn't know how many women would show up. We had never planned an event like this—where we invited women from 25 villages spanning more than half the size of Harris County. These women, part of Sodzo International's "Come Together to Belong" program, gathered with 8,000 other women weekly nearby their homes. This was different. It is difficult to understand logistical challenges of people living on less than $1.50/day when your greatest daily inconvenience is being stuck in rush hour traffic.

We reserved the only public venue available during this national day of academic testing. The venue was far too small, and only one key to the four-door town hall could be found. We broke a second lock and busted the door down so more women could participate from the outside. Inside, about 700 women from the community, government leaders, and tribal elders gathered to share stories of success—of paid school fees, repaired relationships, and newly drilled water wells. Outside, over 1,000 women gathered with limited ability to join in the events inside.

Despite the newly broken door, the speakers carried and connected outside and the camaraderie from meeting new friends in similar places from far away, there was a clear divide in what was supposed to be a day of solidarity. Some walls, literal or figurative, are too difficult to tear down. You have to find a way to work around them. To celebrate despite the divisions. To rejoice and dance instead of worrying about what could have been.

So I went outside. How could I express gratitude and respect for these women in a language not my own, a culture mine only by adoption, and a situation inconsistent with our highest hopes? By dancing, they insisted. Inviting me to dance to local rhythms and melodies, we found another plane in which to exist—one marked by the effervescence of life wherever it happens, however it happens, intoned by songs of love and devotion to the Giver of Life.

We danced. I danced. The hardest I could, around and around in circles, inviting new people to dance together on this day—transformed, however temporarily, from a time of frustrated divisions to one of transcendent bliss. Despite the language barriers, we knew joy together. Even to express it is to limit this type of joy in some way. Joy beyond human words.

Scripture reminds us that humans are not God's only creation. The mountains, trees, hills, rocks... all humanity, all life, all creation reflects the beauty and wonder of creation, if we would but step outside our divisions and find the blissfulness of shared existence—however fleeting the awareness.

Joy incarnate.