Rev. Lora Brandis
Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine.
Under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.
Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know
Through the world we safely go.
--William Blake, from Auguries of Innocence
The week of Christmas 2012 I received a phone call from a reporter asking if I would be addressing the Connecticut tragedy in my Christmas message. The reporter was interviewing local clergy and, having grown up a Unitarian Universalist, she was eager to include our approach to the tragedy during what is supposed to be “a joyful time of year.” She was aware that most clergy had immediately addressed the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut the week before, three days after it had occurred. What she wanted to know was would we continue to address the tragedy at a time of year when people are “supposed to be happy?”
I reminded her that Unitarian Universalists always worship within the context of how the world is now. I assured her that even without specifically referring to the Connecticut tragedy that it would be on our minds as we looked to that time of year not as a time when we are “supposed to be happy,” but as a time that we acknowledge the ancient wisdom in the symbol of light shining in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it. It was the time of year when the world turns from the darkness of the longest night to more light in the lengthening of each day. This turning from darkness to light, and back again, each year is not a choice. It is the way things are. We come to this “joyful” time each year with William Blake’s understanding that “joy and woe are woven fine.”
We are here again. Another tragedy. Another question as to how we are to worship. How are we to find our way when there is so much darkness? Unitarian Universalists always worship within the context of how the world is now. We do not turn away. We acknowledge the way things are. We grieve. We rise.