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Advent: Silently Embodying the Dark While We Wait


Advent holds such a sacred space – the story and formation of the womb is tucked into our souls. Advent is most often thought of as an individual journey, even though we may celebrate together. We can think about it all year around, but probably don’t. This year, the invitation is something different, holding it intentionally as a communal experience.

We tend to sanitize the birth story of Jesus, decorating our homes and places of work and worship with shimmering, glowing nativity scenes, colorful tinseled trees, sequined snowflakes and more. All resting comfortably on fireplace mantles, hallway tables, altars, community rooms and doorways. All very beautiful and serene, and yet we forget the visceral reality of this season.

This space of four weeks is leading up to something – a birth; and births are loud, chaotic, and messy. Births are like that. Our world is messy, chaotic and loud – and then some. Advent is one of the most difficult periods because it is all about waiting. Waiting is not easy when the world is filled with such uncertainty and suffering. Many of us are not good at waiting, we want to move away from what we view as dark and uncomfortable, to employ solutions, and to move quickly to the light. After all, it’s Christmas time right?

To miss this fact that things are chaotic and messy and try to soften and glitter it into something neat and orderly, means we have missed the moment, we have missed the reality of our world, along with our opportunity to birth the Gospel. Life comes with the collateral damage of living: illness, financial distress, failed plans, relationship collapse, death, discrimination – with internal struggles and some ontological and existential crises. All of this we carry into the season, this season of waiting.

All of life is welcome at the Advent table. We want and enjoy what is comfortable and clean, especially this time of year, yet we are called to be with the reality of all of life. We will eventually be in the joy of birth, but first we come together communally to spend our weeks in the dark, embodying the communal womb, being silent, to acknowledge what we are waiting for in our world. This year, the invitation is something different, holding it intentionally and in community.

Week 1: Spending Our Time in The Dark

How did our ancestors experience the dark? In many ways, vastly different from today. They would have had no artificial lighting, not even candles until very recently in human history. Nighttime would have been darker than we can even imagine, so dark that they would have seen heavenly bodies we can only dream of in our sleep. Our own hand would not have been visible if we held it only inches from our face.

Danger and evil lurk around every corner. Yet this journey of dark is earth’s life cycle. 

In the darkness we can’t see, we stumble and fall, we may even lose our way. It is here we are most afraid because it touches our deepest inner terror – where things go bump in the night. Danger and evil lurk around every corner. Yet this journey of dark is earth’s life cycle. Let’s be reminded that perhaps we aren’t afraid of the dark, we’re afraid of being by ourselves, of being alone. Traditionally our Advent journey is about our interior, individual experience, which is why we shift our attention from the individual to moving through this Advent season communally.

New life comes from a death, from the darkness that we fear so much. In those darkest corners lie our shadows, those unloved and unlived pieces of ourselves we have been avoiding or ignoring. These are our demons, our ghosts and the unknown, that sometimes are so dark, we can’t see through them, much like our ancestors experienced the night. This is why it is so important to turn and face that which we fear. For in so doing, we make friends with it, we make peace with what scares or angers us, and with our deepest pain – and we bring ourselves into the light once again.

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