The other night, while picking out a Christmas tree with my family, an older man approached me, holding a bouquet of holly branches. “I’m in love with your wife,” he told me. “These are for her.” I smiled and accepted his gift. Whereas some might be taken aback by such a statement, I have grown used to it over the years. Such is the life of a minister’s husband.

My wife, Cathlin Baker, is the pastor of the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury. For the past few weeks, she has preached a series called How Does a Weary World Rejoice? She chose this theme many months ago, before our Island was visited with a continuous run of tragedies over the last few months, and the world erupted in war upon war, yet again. But it couldn’t be more appropriate now, as this question weighs on so many these days.

Her conclusion, which she approaches from a different angle each week, is that, yes, joy can be found even during the darkest days. In fact, it is essential, and it is what the Christmas message reminds us each year.

On successive Sundays, she has urged the congregation to find connection in community and the miraculous things we do for each other, often of late with tear-filled eyes and weary hearts. She has preached about the power of awe, to be taken aback by the beauty of our natural surroundings, and last Sunday it was the miracle of new life, the foundation of the Christmas story, that she lifted up as a never-ending source of hope.

None of these things are designed to be distractions from our sadness and our fears. Rather, they are there to take us deeper, to that place of pure feeling, where the heart swells and breaks in equal measure.

I have never been the religious sort, which may seem like an odd statement coming from a minister’s husband. I stopped going to church as a teenager and thought I would never return. Marrying Cathlin changed that, perhaps first out of a sense of obligation and, if I am being honest, I still frequently feel out of place in the pew, as if I got lost on my way home from the dump and stopped in to ask for directions.

And yet, it is also the place I often encounter my best self — the one who listens and is quiet, the one who hears the joys and sorrows of my neighbors as they speak up during prayer time and longs to help in any way I can. It is the same with the wider Vineyard community. As I go about my days — at home, at work, doing errands — I am continuously struck by how we are all knitted together, and are essential sources of comfort for each other here on this Island out to sea.

I recall when I preferred numbness in the face of sorrow, a suppression of emotion I felt I needed. But in the pew and on the Island it is impossible to be numb — not when standing beside your neighbors and friends, holding each other’s stories alongside your own, and I am thankful for this. For me, it is a mirror image of the Christmas message, a diverse group of confused, and in many cases broken, people gathered together in a stable, around the kitchen table or beside a fire pit on a cold and lonely night.

Each Sunday during this recent series, the congregation sings the following four stanzas a few times throughout the service. The words are sung quietly, almost as if they are both a question and an affirmation.

There is more joy somewhere.

There is more joy somewhere.

I’m gonna keep on ‘til I find it.

There is more joy somewhere.

I aways have trouble getting through the lines, my voice unsteady at first. But buoyed by the voices around me, I find the strength to believe.