Perhaps the most difficult thing about darkness is that it tells us we are alone.
Darkness, it lies.
Long ago, the church began celebrating its new year during winter’s darkest days. This seems right and good, to me. It’s in times of darkness that we most need to be reminded that we do not wait alone.
Whether or not we’re able to attend church regularly, whether or not we’ve found a place to call our church “home,” and whether or not we truly feel at home there, we do not wait alone.
I believe that this is true, even on the days when it doesn’t feel true. Even on the days when I find community in the pages of a book written decades ago rather than in flesh-and-blood conversation.
In fact, waiting with others is the point of Christian community. One of my favorite writers, Henri Nouwen puts it well:
“The whole meaning of the Christian community lies in offering a space in which we wait for that which we have already seen. Christian community is the place where we keep the flame alive among us and take it seriously, so that it can grow and become stronger in us. In this way we can live with courage, trusting that there is a spiritual power in us that allows us to live in this world without being seduced constantly by despair, lostness, and darkness. That is how we dare to say that God is a God of love even when we see hatred all around us. … We say it together. We affirm it in one another. Waiting together, nurturing what has already begun, expecting its fulfillment – that is the meaning of marriage, friendship, community, and the Christian life.” (from “A Spirituality of Waiting,” as written in my Book of Quotations)
Sometimes I feel lost in the darkness, whether it is a global darkness (famine, crimes against children, poverty) or the darkness that descends when I forget that life is not meant to be as complicated as I sometimes make it (with my buying, my rushing, my worrying).
Advent reminds me to slow down, to light my candle, to find comfort in the many candles lit around me, and to know, again, that if the only thing I do most days is wait patiently, with thanksgiving, then I have lived well.
“The Photographer,” otherwise known as Kelli Campbell, invites each of you to contribute your own Advent images to the Advent Flickr group. If you are not a photographer, we hope you will still join both of us there to watch as the season quietly unfolds in pictures.