(These bears were part of the Salvation Army's Teddy Bear Tea that took place this afternoon at our parish house.)
Community life is a place of both joy and sorrow, sometimes all at the same time. Good things are happening even while less happy events unfold; we learn, or make an attempt to learn, how to hold them all in tension. These bears are a joy to behold, and yet the reason for them is sad. They're either being given to children in need or sold to raise money to assist families who need help during the holiday season.
To acknowledge one is not to make light of the other. If we waited for all sorrow to cease before we expressed joy, we'd never get there. There is always sorrow. But there is always joy, too, if we can open our hands to receive it. We can be intentional about being present to joy in the midst of sorrow and doing so doesn't mean that we are not deeply moved by the ills that plague our community. It is easy to become defeated, though, if we only see the plague.
We have heard, these last days, shocking, ugly and sad stories about abuse and harassment, about continued economic woes worldwide (even as the Dow topped 12000 points yesterday). Voters in several states today considered new, and mostly punitive, referenda on immigration and (more to the point) immigrants. These are sad times. And there will be more sad times.
What can we say with and about joy in these sad times? I remember the reading from The Revelation to John (repeating what was said by Isaiah) on All Saints' Day - and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. And I look forward to what Isaiah will say at the beginning of Advent - Oh, that you would tear open the heavens and come down! This is not the world that God had in mind for us.
But is the joy only that on the other side? That may help us sometimes, but we do have this here and now part to deal with, to live through - to enjoy, even, since God has given us this world for both God's and our pleasure and delight. We must be able to find joy in today as well as to look forward to joy in the morning.
And so, consider the bear. Many wonderful people came out today to enjoy tea and cake and to give some bears a hug in anticipation of the hugs delighted children will give the bears they receive. And it helps me remember that there are many, many loving and caring people in the world who want to make the world a better place. Let us bless them as they bless us with their generosity.