Once more Advent cycles round as it is wont to do. It’s time to prepare for another journey around the sun. I wonder if I am getting too old to do this one more time. How many more years can I turn, with hopeful expectation, that the Promised One will come to turn the world right side up, to shake the foundations, and make things right?
It’s crazy in California – as it always is. There’s a chill in the air – it only got up to 66 today with the sun shining brightly as brilliantly colored leaves take flight from the safety of the limbs that had held them for a lifetime. Still, it seems like a dark and dangerous December is descending on us and we’re not sure the center will hold, not sure we can make it through one more year like this one.
“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence…to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence!” (Isaiah 64:1-2) So cries the prophet. Come, Holy One! Come, God of hosts! Come, Christ of challenge and disruption! Come, Spirit of consuming fire! But, maybe not just yet. I’m conflicted in my invocation. Be careful what you ask for. Be very sure before you lift your voice and cry out for the power and passion of the Holy One. It may just be too hot to handle, more than we can take in. Besides, it’s 66 degrees and the sun is shining. I’m not that uncomfortable. Life could surely be worse.
That is until I begin to pay attention, to look and listen to see and hear what is going on in the world around me. Hatred, violence, injustice, poverty, hunger, homelessness, war, murder in cathedral and mosque, in synagogue and country church, in school and on the street, sexual misconduct in every conceivable shape and form, incivility and misbehavior in the halls of governance and the public square. Shall I go on? Maybe none of this touches me or you directly, but shouldn’t it?
So, it feels like we are descending into a dark and dangerous December. What does nature do as the cold and dark encroach? It takes the opportunity to lie fallow for a while, to turn inward, to pause to reflect, to germinate “the seed that with the sun’s love
in the spring becomes the rose.” That is what Advent is about. It’s a time of watching and waiting, of longing and hoping, of preparing and praying for the coming of the Christmas Rose. It’s not a comfortable time; I’m not sure it was ever meant to be.
We live in a time and place that has tried to take all the edge off our uncertainty and ambivalence in this time of watching and waiting. Let’s leap right from Halloween to Christmas with equal servings of Thanksgiving and Black Friday in between. If we can just keep the treadmill going fast enough, we’ll be happy, won’t we? No time to stop. I’m late for a very important date – at the mall, at the office party, beneath the gift-laden tree, under the mistletoe – anywhere but on my knees in prayer, invoking the Holy One, with all the disruption that infers.
I hear the old folk calling me Scrooge and the younger ones, Grinch. Go ahead. Anyone who knows me, knows those are my favorite Christmas characters, aside from Jesus, Joseph, and Mary. Both of those gnarly characters hole up in their dark, cold chambers. It’s true that neither is on his knees in prayer, but, perhaps because I know the ending of the stories, I believe that something is going on in the “houses of their hearts,” that “bidden or unbidden God is present.” Is it the movement of the Spirit(s), the loving wisdom of a little girl, the stirring of light that seeps in through the cracks to move these classic curmudgeons, that moves me, that moves any of us from darkness, doubt, and despair into the light, the assurance, the possibility of a new day?
Sorry, it’s the season of more questions than answers. Shall we cycle around one more time? Will we hold hope that from the deepest darkness and most perplexing questions the answer will once more appear in a feed trough in a barn by the road in some out of the way wide spot in the road and the world will never be the same again?
Yours in worry and wonder, in watching and waiting,
Further musing for the season
Help us to bring darkness into the light,
To lift out the pain, the anger,
Where it can be seen for what it is —
The balance-wheel for our vulnerable, aching love.
Put the wild hunger where it belongs,
Within the act of creation,
Crude power that forges a balance
Between hate and love.
Help us to be the always hopeful
Gardeners of the spirit
Who know that without darkness
Nothing comes to birth
As without light
(May Sarton, 1912 – 1995)