Many Advents ago I went to a gathering of other in ministries of spiritual formation in the bleak midwinter. I carried with me some of the dark Advent blues concerning the direction of my ministry and its future –what? where? how? On one evening after seminars all day I became swept up in joy as I listened to a concert of Appalachian Christmas music with dulcimer accompaniment, and in the afterglow, sat with two friends who gently and plainly offered their vision of a ministry opening before me–that of spiritual direction. We sat together, and as I sat in the semi-dark, I looked out over the lake, in which was shining the reflection of the lights on the opposite side, opening a path to be followed even when its end point was not clear and Advent image for me of the light for which I longed. I carried that evening–the conversation, the friendship, the vision–home with me, and it became the beginning of a new way opening for me, where I had not seen a way.
This Advent again I long for Light–in this tattered world, the re-forming Church, in our fractured cities, in our broken families, in our shattered hearts–looking for ways where there seem to be no ways. Advent brings that promise that the oppressive, opaque, night will not last forever, but Light will come. I will join with the faithful in celebrating the coming of the Light in Jesus, the Christ, knowing that there will still be darkness in the systems in which we move and have our being; yet with the coming of the Christ-Light, we will see intimations of the Light opening paths of wholeness and hope for us to follow, until Christ comes again to knit all things together.In this Advent I have witnessed some of these intimations of the Light:
- someone who has been able to let go of past hurts and slights
- someone who stretched beyond the comfort zone to touch another
- someone who stood up when all around were paralyzed by anxiety
- someone who reveled in God’s grace, despite limitations of frail body and broken heart
- someone who let go of cherished attachment for the sake of truth and justice
The natural blues of the aching world seem in this season to have the capacity to multiply, yet in the darkness the Light will shine, is shining still. Edward Esch in words set to music by Eric Whitacre describes it this way:
Light, warm and heavy as pure gold and angels sing softly for the new-born baby.
I pray for Light in the darkness, songs of jubilation rising above the blues, and peace within, under, above us as we see the light as it comes to us this Christmas!
Painting is by Vincent Van Gogh, “Starry Night over the Rhone,”