It seems very fitting that this morning we are waking up to rain. Rain that is leaving the morning grey and dark.
Today marks the beginning of the Season of Advent. The season of darkness and light, of prayer and reflection. The season of hope and redemption.
A reminder from God that no matter what darkess we face, he will always return us to the light.
Advent isn’t a celebration. Rather it is a journey much like life. It is a pause from the busyness of life to reflect and take stock of where we are at spiritually and emotionally. It is being attentive and watching and waiting on God and this wondrous mystery of redemption. God’s promise fulfulled.
Advent gives us a space for acknowleging our disappointments, failures, and hurts. It gives us space for grief and lament with the promise of hope. It gives us space to refresh and recharge our relationships with ourselves, those around us, and most importantly, with God.
Advent allows us to be vulnerable with ourselves and each other.
It is as if the heavenly Father is saying to each of us, “Come, tell me all about it. Let me help you. I love you.” An ever present help in our struggles:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
-Isaiah 43:1-3 (NRSV)
Two years ago I marked the start of advent with this post with my reflections on the grief and darkness I was feeling at that time. This year I find that I am again entering into the season of advent with grief, but of a different nature. This is grief for my sense of self and self worth that I have realized was lost over the years. I am trying to find that girl again, and be the woman God created me to be.
Maybe there is something in turning 40 (which I did last year) that makes you stop and reflect on where you are and where you have been and wonder where you are going next. A kind of life Advent season. What were my dreams then? What are they now? And the realization that regardless of dreams, life just happens.
And isn’t this exactly what happened to Mary, the mother of Jesus, but on a far greater scale?
Mary was a normal teenager. She was engaged to be married to a fine upstanding man of the community. Did she dream about the life she would lead with him? How many babies they would have? How she would decorate their home?
I am sure that in her plans and dreams she never imagined that she would be pregnant out of wedlock or fleeing for her life with her baby for safety in Egypt. Nor would she have ever imagined seeing her son disown his family (Mark 3:31-35) making the family Passover celebrations ackward going forward. But then again, as an unwed mother, Mary herself probably made family celebrations a little ackward for a while.
And even though she lived under the oppressive rule of the Romans, she would never have thought her son would be one of the ones who would be hung from a cross and that she would be standing there in shock watching, greiving, and lamenting for her son.
But Mary was faithful and when the Angel Gabriel asked her if she would be the mother of God, she willingly said yes. She willingly abandoned her dreams of what she thought her life would be and became the willing servant of God. By being a faithful light in the darkness of ancient Palestine, Mary brought THE LIGHT into the world.
Many of us are lost, but we are not alone in the darkness.
We are seeking, and we will be found if we want to be. Work through the pain and grief. Lament for the losses you have experienced. And remember that no matter the darkess, the light always comes. Have faith and know that you are God’s beloved.
Whether you are a lone soul full of faith or looking for a faith community or are part of a faith community, let us all be light together this Advent season. Let this light shine out into the darkess of the world around us.
Whether this year finds you grieving or rejoicing or somewhere in between, this space of Advent is for you.
Arise, your light has come!
Arise, shine; for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
and his glory will appear over you.
Nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
-Isaiah 60:1-3 (NRSV)
O come, o come Emanual