How Does a Weary World Rejoice?

The suggestion we are given for this Third Week of Advent is this:

“We allow ourselves to be amazed.”

It’s hard to describe awe. It’s expansive. Something vast, yet near. Awe moves us. Softens our guard. For a moment, we forget about ourselves, lost in the moment.

Dr. Keltner is a professor at Berkeley who has studied awe and found it calms our nervous system, activating our vagal nerve. Our heart beat slows, our breathing deepens, and oxytocin is released, making trust and bonding easier. It even settles the part of our brain involved in how we perceive ourselves—we become less preoccupied with ourselves and have less negative self-talk. Awe gets us out of our heads.

I wonder if we aren’t curating awe in this season? We put lights on our houses and trees, choose presents for each other, wrap them and tuck them under the tree, light candles, put on Christmas music, and enjoy lovely food—hoping that, if even for a moment, those we love will feel that fleeting, expansive sense of wellbeing.

At Christmas time, in a culture saturated by stimulus, the “awe” offerings are getting bigger, noisier, and brighter. Our economic systems grow rich by attaching awe to consumption, particularly the consumption of the spectacular. And we do find awe in the spectacular—the Nutcracker ballet, a forest light up with lights, a mountain covered with fresh powder.

It’s comforting to know that Dr. Keltner also found awe amongst the prisoners of San Quentin State Prison. They told him they too experienced awe—in the light, in the air, in reading and spiritual practices.

Awe is found in the spectacular AND in the mundane. And today’s passage, Luke 1:57-66, gives us even more information on awe. This week, I looked at this passage from this lens of awe, approaching it with attentiveness and curiosity, to see what it had to teach me about awe. Here is a summary of what I found:

Awe is found as we open ourselves.

As we generously open ourselves to share joy in another’s good fortune and celebrate the form God’s grace is taking in each other’s lives. (Even when we have to sit and metabolize a little bit of envy.)

As we courageously open ourselves to the unfamiliar and uncomfortable plumb line separating religious and social propriety from expansive moral horizon lines steeped in love. (Even when we don’t quite understand.)

As we crack open to the possibility of the miraculous, reconsidering the old narratives we’ve been telling ourselves about what is and isn’t possible for God. (Even when we feel unclear about what we believe about such things.)

We stay open to ourselves in the silence, letting strange houseguests come: the envy, the judgement, the distrust, the fear, the anger, and also the hope, the peace, the joy, the love, and even the awe.

And when awe is the guest who shows up at our door step, we open our mouths and let our truth spill out into the streets, a ripple of story, a river of communal rejoicing, flowing into the surrounding hillside. 

All the Way to Joy
—Prayer by Rev Sarah A. Speed

We could play hard and fast,
not let anything touch us at all,
keep composure,
have all the answers.
Or we could crack ourselves open
and let everything in.
We could feel everything,
every touch, every marvel.
We could stand gaping
at the beauty of the world,
mouths wide open (because sometimes
a mouth wide open is the very best gratitude).
We could laugh so loudly
that the whole restaurant looks,
and err on the side of goofy
whenever possible.
We could put our defenses down.
We could grow soft.
We could choose awe.
We could take her by the arm.
We could let her lead us all the way to joy.

Deep peace and blessing,

— Anne

Rev. Anne Baxter Smith
Pastor, The Church at Southpoint

Worship Calendar

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Catch up on Anne’s recent blogs under “News” on our website,

Sun May 12   Mother’s Day
Acts 1:15-17, 21-26

Sun May 19 Pentecost
Acts 2:1-21

Sun May 26 
No service at the Sunnyside building
Brunches Together!

Sun Jun 2
Rev Rusty Edwards (CABF)
2 Cor 4:5-12

Sun Jun 9
2 Cor 4:13-5:1

Sun Jun 16
2 Cor 5:6-11, 14-17

Sun Jun 23
Baptisms, at A Rocha’s Brooksdale Environmental Centre No service at the Sunnyside building

Sun Jun 30 
Fifth Sunday Brunches Together No service at the Sunnyside building

New to Southpoint?

At Southpoint, it all begins with God’s love. Just as a plant grows, it receives sunshine, so we grow as we receive God’s love. At Southpoint, we are growing in our capacity to love God, ourselves, one another, and creation.

We seek to be a community of grace that is intentional yet organic, spacious yet authentic, grace-filled yet accountable. * We are fully welcoming. *

We encourage relationships rather than run programs, yet we recognize the importance of intentionality and structure as we nurture life together.

As a community, we seek to put our love in action. We value helping out on Sunday mornings, sharing food, and showing up in hard times. We keep our church life simple so folk have time to build relationships with family, friends, and neighbours. We encourage folk to serve in tangible ways within the wider community. We rent space rather than own a building, allowing us to do more with less, supporting missions at home and abroad.

Curious to know more?

These six slides express what motivates our ministry (best viewed on a monitor). Here’s the bio of our Pastor, Rev. Anne Baxter Smith.

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