Sunday, December 7, 2014

Advent in Darkness

L "helping" string lights...from our first Christmas together

After dinner today our family did our little Advent celebration. We lit candles, we said a little prayer and did a little reading. Then we looked for the 10 little silver bells someone (me) had hidden in the living room and used them to make a joyful noise.

I may have gritted my teeth during most of this 10 minute spiritual exercise. I may have tried not to yell in frustration as one child stood up during the reading and another wouldn't stop asking if it was time to blow out the candles. I may have rolled my eyes heavenward more than once.

Spiritual exercise- like most exercise, it can be HARD.  You have to make yourself get up off the couch and put those sneakers on. You have to focus on the long term goals. You have to get up and move, even when you are not in the mood. I, for one, have never in my life been in the mood for a run.  I have to force myself out of the house to do restorative yoga, for goodness sake. I am definitely no role model of will power. However:

 Last year we didn't do Advent. And we had a really awful Christmas. The worst, actually. Not all of that is because we didn't like 4 candles over 4 Sundays. Mostly it was because our house was a construction site and 3 of us had the flu. But... not doing Advent didn't help matters.

UU author John Taylor wrote, “If there were no Advent, we would need to invent it.  We human creatures, in spite of all that has happened to us and been done to us, are still hopeful.  Something new, something vital, something promising is always coming, and we are always expecting. Thus in Advent candles are lighted to mark the time of preparation, and with each new light our anticipation grows – as it should.  We are, after all, a hopeful people, and that hopefulness deserves a festival.  

And I think I didn't really understand the true purpose of Advent until this year. It is dark out. It is dark within. We are going through a really challenging, painful time as a nation, and as a family. I am so proud when I see the thousands of protesters across the country demanding justice for all. And I am so fearful whenever I think of my own child. My parenting has changed. When once I would have sent him around the corner to fetch something he forgot at the gym, I now insist on going with him. When once I would have let him play with toy guns, I will never. When once I would have answered his questions about police with the usual "Police are there to help you."... I now hesitate. Dark times.

Time for light. The candles we light in our home, and the electric lights we hang in our windows are not just pretty decorations but prayers for more beautiful future. They are candles of hope.

This year as in many years past I am busy with Christmas preparations. Cards to mail, presents to wrap, cookies to bake, plans to make. It can be stressful and overwhelming. I am guilty of threatening to "cancel" Christmas when my children thoughtlessly break the toys they already have. I am guilty of wishing for a quieter home when my kids Wintertime pent up energy is threatening to bring the roof down. It can be hard to look forward to the magic of Christmas when you are doing the work of Santa.

So I look to our Advent readings and reflections to help me prepare. Prepare my mind and prepare my spirit. To stay focused on the magic that is really happening... that people, all over the world, still BELIEVE that something special is supposed to happen at the darkest time of the year. At least, judging by the "very special episodes" and TV movies, and Hollywood films, and picture books and songs and stories... We all fervently, desperately wish for that magic.

And don't we need it, this year.

So come, Christmas, come!

Jump for joy! It's Christmas time!

Come Christmas!
 by M. Maureen Killoran 
No one is ever really ready for Christmas. 
If we were really all prepared: 
      If every gift we had contemplated had been obtained; 
      If every present was beautifully beribboned; 
      If all the goodies our friends deserve were baked and cooled, and stored just so; 
      If each and every person we love was gathered for our celebration; 
      If we never snapped at someone we care about, nor stopped short of being all that we could be; 
      If our minds were 100 per cent loving and our hearts were 100 per cent generous; 
They truly would be ready and truly we would not need Christmas quite so much.
So come, Christmas, most needed of seasons. 
Come with the reminder that love does not depend on Perfection but on willingness to risk connection. 
Come into the unready manger of our hearts 
That we may feel the warmth of new life 
 And give flesh to the promise of hope 
 That cries to bring healing into our world.
 Come Christmas! 
Come, Love, 
Come, Hope. 
Be born in our unready hearts 
On this silent and holy night.


A must read from Rachel Held Evans: Advent 2

A great one from Christena Cleveland : Advent/Darkness

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