Advent, the Christian season that leads up to Christmas, is about hope in the midst of darkness, hope in a better future, hope in a better tomorrow in spite of the darkness that surrounds us.
Our secular calendars fit perfectly into the season. The shortest darkest day of 2018 is December 21st, known as the Winter Solstice. We are immersed in literal darkness as we await the coming of the light of Christ.
What does it mean to expectantly wait in darkness? In means that in spite of all the Christmas jingles, blockbuster sales, Santas on every street corner, and one party too many we are meant to take time to reflect, to sit in darkness. Rather than fighting the last light of December evenings, we are meant to embrace it, to use it for the gift it is.
I don’t know about you, but this is a tough one for me. I much prefer brightness, sunshine and the long lazy days of summer. But that’s not how God created our world! As we await the in-breaking of God’s kingdom coming to us as a tiny baby, we are meant to be in a receptive, contemplative state rather than so exhausted we’re relieved when Christmas is finally over and the last dish is cleaned, the last ornament is safely stored, and our house is quiet once more.
During this time of darkness, of contemplating the birth of Jesus, we are meant to not shy away from those dark places in our own lives. “Christmas reminds us that faith in the future does not erase our pain in the present”* – whether it’s the pain of Christmas without a dear loved one, pain of not knowing where our next meal is coming from, pain of knowing we’ve lost our health insurance, pain that consumes us when we worry night and day about our children, pain over the fractured state of our country and the world, pain of alienation from loved ones we shared holidays with long ago.
If you’re feeling out of sync with the outside world right now, you’re not alone. In fact, you’re experiencing this season as it is meant to be, without all the commercialism that we humans have added to it. So let us embrace those silent moments, those times of darkness and quiet, as we make room in our hearts to receive Jesus. Whether you view him as God incarnate as do Christians, a prophet as do Jews and Muslims, or just a pretty savvy guy who is a great example of kindness and compassion – get ready.
The time is almost here.
*Kelly Flanagan, “The Most Wonderfully Painful Time of the Year”, Christianity Today, December 10, 2018.