Grace and Peace to you.
Most of our Advent traditions formed centuries ago among Christian and pre-Christian Celtic and Germanic peoples, as they approached the winter solstice. So there’s a lot about darkness, stillness and silence. Farmers removed idle wagon wheels to make wreaths with candles, reflecting on the fallow season of waiting and hope. All this darkness and cold might sound a little off to you who live in Australia, where summer’s about to begin, or South Africa or Brazil, or for that matter even Texas. While we’re singing about the “bleak midwinter” the folks in Corpus Christi and Adelaide go to the beach.
We call this a season of silence and stillness—notice how may carols have silence in them—but we’re rushing around, busier than ever, and making more noise than usual ringing bells and singing in public, if you can believe it! We’re playing music and stringing up extra lights as if to banish the very darkness and silence we adore.
The darkness and quiet of December in the north country is a symbol, but not the whole of it. After all, there isn’t that much bleak, dark midwinter in Bethlehem—and actually Jesus probably wasn’t born in the winter anyway. “The dawn that breaks upon those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death” has nothing to do with latitude. The darkness of Advent is the darkness within, and the darkness of a fearful, competitive world. The silence is the deep silence at the center of our souls. That’s where Advent happens, and the birth of Christ unfolds.
Where is the darkness in your life? Where are the places in your life where you can’t see, where the known disappears into the unknown? Where is that place in your awareness where you can be without “seeing,” without knowing or understanding, and be at peace?
Where is the silence in you? You won’t find it “out there.” Go within. Sit with it. Sit with it a lot, and let it speak to you in the language of angels, the language of God, which is silence.
Your wagon wheels may not be idle, but there is a place of quiet in your soul. Where are the empty places in your life? We might feel uncomfortable about emptiness, but an empty place is one where the Christ child can come when there is “no room in the inn” elsewhere. Perhaps even the painfully empty places—the places of loss, bereavement, poverty or fruitlessness—maybe these are places where even now angels are gathering.
Don’t expect the world to offer you darkness, silence and stillness. Go to where they are, and wait there. God will meet you there.
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