My phone’s weather app calmly advises, “Cloudy conditions will continue for the rest of the day.” And from the forecast, it appears, the rest of the week as well.

Outside my back door, bare branches lace their bony fingers across the pewter sky. At 3 p.m. dusk feels imminent, so I plug in the Christmas tree lights to ward off the gathering gloom. But the darkness pervades.

My default optimism appears to be overridden by the weather and some heavy circumstances.

In the past few weeks, three close friends have lost family members. My co-author and friend lost his wife, Karen. My next-door neighbor’s mother, Bridget, passed away. And yesterday, another good friend’s husband, Bob, died of cancer, gone too young.

I feel my friends’ pain, their sadness. I say their loved ones’ names, honor their memories.

A lesser loss, but still an ache: today I mailed a package of Christmas gifts to my son, whom I have not seen in nearly a year, and will not see at Christmas. I’m grateful for his health and strength and even his independence, but sometimes the distance gapes like a wound.

Sunday at church, our Advent liturgy included these lines of call and response, stunningly appropriate:

We can look around and see all kinds of reasons not to feel joyful

Until we learn:

Joy is not felt

Joy is found.

I almost gasped aloud. Around me this month, despite the holiday merriment, I am hungry for joy.

Joy is found. Joy is found?


The liturgy again:

This is the joy given to us:

To love and be loved

To sacrifice and be blessed

To be lost and found.

Could there be joy in loving my friends in the midst of their loss? Could I find joy in sacrifice?

What if joy comes from knowing that even when I get lost, I am found? And in being found, find joy.