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Joy and justice have become two necessary sides of the same coin in this unforgettable year.

I have needed both joy and justice to make it through a year of unprecedented collective grief.

Christians believe in a God who loves justice, as Isaiah 61:8 proclaims. So, it is because of an innate desire for justice that I strive to speak up and persist to create a world with equity for all of humanity.

Subsequently, joy happens to be a natural part of my being. It is where my soul feels most free. Together, I hold the tension to hunger for justice while sustaining a natural happy disposition that is true to my essence.

It is easy to fall out of alignment with joy by reading endless weighty headlines and news. We might choose to let justice take the backseat and become apathetic that anything good will arise or stay for long.

When we can bring intention and balance to lean into the joy that is true to what we individually need and focus awareness on where justice has yet to come collectively, it feels like the delight of Isaiah 61:11 in seeing the earth ready to produce its shoots.

It resembles the attention and nurture that a garden needs to adapt in inclement weather or receive the sun on warm days. Both lend opportunity for growth.

Leaning into joy and justice is the undeniable paradox of my journey being a Black womxn in America. I know the grief of facing systemic barriers often disregarded by folks of another race or gender.

Yet, I choose joy as a spiritual practice and a divine birthright to remember who God has made me to blossom into. I stay away from places where news does not hold space for a multiplicity of truths or only fits into the construct of one point of view.

We should always be on the lookout for good news (Isaiah 61:1). Joy is not the absence of grief. It is the capacity to see and make room for the sense of pleasure that lives within us.

It is the space where we can actively heal and proclaim freedom, the freedom attainable for ourselves so that we can notice where it is less accessible or not freely given to everyone else.

It is a reminder of this season. As we witness the effects of a pandemic that has swept across the world, continue to take in a year of civil unrest throughout the nation and imagine a future with a new presidential administration, Advent sets the stage for a fresh start as we await the beginning of a new year.

This short period between the restart of a liturgical calendar and the coming of 2021 provides relief that new beginnings are always readily available.

Create and start anew whenever you need it. Joy and justice are not one-time destinations but daily arrivals.

Through collective trauma, healing can begin to show up on the horizon when we are willing to embrace joy and pursue justice. It is a way we can open our eyes to the everyday blessings of God and bring comfort to bless others in challenging times (Isaiah 61:2).

Setting boundaries to balance awareness of what is happening in the world and leaning into liberation are the sustaining doses of medicine I need.

I take space to notice emotions that arise and let them move through me accordingly. I take special interest when joy exudes in ways I am naturally gifted and expend energy that justice also be present.

As we think about joy in this time of Advent, ask yourself how we might create a world that is more joyous and just for ourselves, our community and for others.

Editor’s note: This article is part of a weekly series for Advent 2020. One article will be published each week for the four Sundays of Advent, with a final article published on Christmas week. The previous articles in the series are:

Bringing Your Crumpled Hope to Advent | Merianna Harrelson

When Righteousness and Peace Kiss | Richard Wilson

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