“In this strange season when we are suspended between realization and expectation, may we be found honest about the darkness, more perceptive of the light.” ~ Jack Boozer
Advent began yesterday. The countdown to Christmas, a period of waiting, anticipation and preparation. I do find Advent, as Jack suggests in the quote above, an interesting suspension of time. It is a time when we know the end of the story, yet we hear the story again as if for the first time. We know that the Light is always with us, yet we anticipate the Light which shines in the darkness. We expect something we have really already realized in our lives, yet the expectation brings us to an awareness of the Presence of God-with-us in ways that we don’t have the rest of the year.
(For the full audio version, click here.)
Sadly, Advent has almost become a secular season (beginning right after Halloween, if not before)… it’s the shopping season for Christmas, the cookie making season, the lights at the zoo season, Christmas tree season, the time of holly, ivy, mistletoe and good cheer. Making this time secular and commercialized has externalized our preparation instead of internalizing it. Even the darkness has been externalized as the days get shorter and our nights get longer and our external response is to put Christmas lights on our houses (which I love, by the way). But it is the internal journey which is most important.
A more spiritual advent is internalized, it asks us to look inside. It will be inside where we find, not only the compassionate, loving joyful parts of ourselves, but the metaphorically darker parts, our shadow side. Externalized advent so often ignores these shadows that get deeper in our hearts this time of year.
I’ve been told that I’m at my best pastoring when I can just be myself. Unfortunately, my true self often gets obscured by things like pride, ego, fear and insecurity. I’m prone to bouts of guilt and shame, and occasionally get slammed with waves of grief and loss. Darkness descends. Sometimes it descends in layers, one after the other, until almost all light has disappeared. I have then effectively blocked my own light from being seen, and I have blocked the light of the Divine from reaching the shadows within me. It reminds me of the window films that you place on your house or car windows to filter out some of the light. If we place layers and layers of that film on our windows, eventually there will be little light getting in or out of the house.
Just because the light can’t be seen as well doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Sometimes we just have to look harder to perceive it and then strive to reach it by working at removing the layers. It’s work, I know, and sometimes scary to be honest about the shadows in our hearts, and to bring those shadows into the light and deal with them. However, it is also the only way I am aware of to become more whole. The light does help us to heal. Otherwise we live our lives divided between the face we show to the world and the face we only allow ourselves (and maybe a few others) to see. Working to become one instead of divided, this is the work of Advent.
Peace ~ Kaye