Shannon W. Dycus is a member of the steering committee for MC USA’s Women in Leadership and has given leadership to worship across MC USA. As an educator and pastor, she is committed to communities of mutual liberation. Shannon serves as the dean of students at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and enjoys teaching a course in spiritual formation. She is a current doctoral student at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities and she is pursuing the role of public theology in faith-based institutions. Shannon loves the art of listening and sharing good food, and she believes in doing justice and creating space to breathe.
It’s the beginning of December, and our priorities are pulled in countless directions. And this year, our minds are full of worry, our bodies still adjusting to premature darkness, and our hearts or ones we know well are holding grief very close. This season between Thanksgiving and Christmas holds the breadth of the holidays in both the commercial and the liturgical sense. There is an inherent tension, rushing towards Christmas readiness, while Advent pleads us into a posture of waiting.
My spirit is trying to find the right pace and the intention that helps me keep hearing God. A staple for me in 2021, writer and liturgist Cole Arthur Riley of @blackliturgies offers these words to guide our meaning-making in these holiday seasons: “Thanksgiving reminds us we are so much more than our pain. We rest, we feast, we remember the sound of our laughter. Joy doesn’t mean everything is alright, it’s the reminder there is beauty that cannot be touched.”
Sitting with Riley’s definition of joy takes me straight to Mary, mother of Jesus. And in my mind, I see a pregnant Mary in a draping tunic with a bump underneath that only some can see, but no others understand fully. Her mothering frame is thin and fatigued, AND she is bulging with the possibility of being a new link in God’s story. Mary’s social stability is unknown, AND she holds the reminder that the Lord is with her (Luke 1:28). Her faith requires a courage that is isolating, AND she found rest, feast and laughter to enable a sacred birth.
So what if joy, the joy that Riley points to, breaks the tension of this holiday season? Can our lives and communities be in disarray, and we still see the remnants of peace we have not yet beheld? What if this kind of joy that Mary embodies overcomes the binaries of needing joy and experiencing joy?
In the spirit of what we have and what we need, I pray for joy.
God who waits with us,
Come to us as joy.
Remind us of your Spirit that lives within, waiting to be known more deeply.
From our broken and mending places, teach us to pause in the sacred of what is.
Open our ears to see reflections of your beauty along our journeys.
Renew our joy.
In the darkness of rest and the hues of the sunrise.
In the practice of being faithful and owning our sense of the overwhelming.
In the fears that border our hopes and the hardness that hinders grace.
Bless what we call insignificant.
Bless our silence and our strength.
Bless what we cannot see.
Then God, just wait with us a little longer, as you did with Mary.
Bless us again.
MC USA’s Women in Leadership (WIL) works to dismantle patriarchal systems in Mennonite Church USA by empowering women to live out the call of God on their lives, increase their capacities, and contribute their wisdom in congregations, area conferences, agencies and institutions.