Advent 3: Spread Joy



An edited version of my Advent 3 message at church this morning: 

In Utah, there is a giant grove of quaking aspen trees that is considered the oldest grove of trees in the world. Covering 107 acres, this grove has lived in what is now the Fishlake National Forest for over 80,000 years. 

Nicknamed “The Trembling Giant”, this massive grove of approximately 47,000 thousand trees is actually ONE ORGANISM.

This is because all the trees share a single root system. Quaking aspens usually reproduce asexually by sprouting new trees from the expansive lateral root of the parent, so the individual trees aren’t individuals but stems of a massive single clone, and this clone is truly massive.   

After it was discovered, scientists named it “Pando”, a Latin word that translates to “I spread.”                                  [source: atlatobscura.com]
And this is why I’m telling you about it. 

Because we want to spread joy. 
Because we are all in this together – this world, this life, this pandemic experience. 
Because we are all one single organism: human beings. 
No matter what family we are from – whether we are hardwoods or softwoods, deciduous or coniferous, birch trees or maple trees or pine trees,
no matter the colour of our bark or the shape of our leaves
– we are all humans. 

This should bring us joy – to be connected to so many wonderful, fascinating, creative, intelligent, kind and generous people all over the world! 
Yet we ignore this connection. 
We cut ourselves off from our root, our common source of life and energy. 
We catalogue on our differences and turn those differences into weapons to diminish and destroy.  
We use our energy against each other.

We separate ourselves from each other – or think we can. Right? We think we are separate – better than certain people – superior to others.
Yet if we are from the same source, if we all survive and thrive on the same root system, then we are not separate from each other at all, or from the source. 

We are different yet we are the same. 
Same source, same sap – or as we say, Everyone’s blood is red. 
Outside we may look different but inside, we are the same – heart, mind, spirit. 
All connected. 

Makes you want to shout for joy, doesn’t it? 

As the ancient prophet Isaiah said: “The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.” 

Cue poet David Whyte, who wrote, 
“Inside everyone is a great shout of joy waiting to be born…”

Notice how he doesn’t say “Inside everyone is a great shout of joy”
but “a great shout of joy… WAITING TO BE BORN.”

Waiting. Like we do during Advent. We wait. We prepare. We anticipate. 
We are waiting and preparing for and anticipating…
the birth of
hope
peace
joy
and love. 

We are waiting for healing – to be able to see in new ways, to be able to walk a different path, to be cleansed of the illnesses that keep us from loving others, to be able to hear the good news, to be able to be reborn and live again. 
We are preparing for the light to shine.
We are anticipating the angel’s offer of “good news to you – wonderful joyous news for all people”, just as it was offered to the shepherds in the hills above Bethlehem.  [Luke 2:10] 

But even though we know this story, there is still this: 
Our great shout of joy is WAITING TO BE BORN because we need to tap into it. It doesn’t already exist in us – we need to do the work of creating that great shout of joy. 

The work of our faith: being in service to others. Taking care of others – those who have less and struggle more, those who are denied justice, those who need mercy and understanding, those who are lost, those who are sad. 
Taking care of others is a way of creating joy – quiet, holy joy – for others and for ourselves.

After all, what is a great shout but a sound for others to hear? 

Because we are called to spread joy.
Like the angels, we are called to share the joy of Jesus’ birth and everything it means – the hope, the peace, the joy and the love that can transform our world. 

According to theologian Martin Buber, “The beating heart of the universe is holy joy.” 
And since we all come from the same heart, the same root, the same parent, the same source – that makes us part of the same family. The same human family. 
It is through this connection that we can spread joy. If we choose to remember we share the same root. 

~ written by Sara Jewell 

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