Here at Maplehurst, it is the darkest time of year.
Darkness isn’t only a condition on the other side of your window. Sometimes, it is a weight on your chest. Sometimes, it is a fog behind your eyes.
In other words, our walls and windows don’t always keep it out.
Two years ago, I was living in a wilderness. I was so desperate for light and newness I decided to post something – a reflection, a prayer, a poem, a scrap of song – every day of Advent. I knew my own efforts couldn’t make the light dawn any sooner, but I wanted to be ready when it did. I wanted to be there, waiting, with eyes wide open for those first streaks of gold in the eastern sky.
In early January that year, we found out our fourth baby was on the way. And I knew then some of what I’d been waiting for. Born in September, I still think of her as my Advent child. Without even realizing it, I was praying my way to her.
Last year at Advent, I held that same baby in my arms. I rocked her to sleep in my dream-come-true of a farmhouse, but there was something darker in my head than anything I could see through the wavy glass of these old windows. Was it hormones, sleep-deprivation, the unending tasks of moving and setting up a new home? Probably I can blame all of the above and more besides. I felt both completely ill-equipped to blog every day and desperate to mark my steps toward light and hope and the easy burden offered in Jesus.
One more year, and I am standing here again. Looking back, looking ahead.
Once again, I feel too tired. Too busy. Too small. But I also feel grateful. I feel as if something has accrued in these years observing Advent. The circle of the year has not brought me all the way back to the point where I began. These days may be dark, but, if I look honestly, I see how much brighter they are than any I’ve previously known.
Here is the paradox of advent: it is a season of quiet waiting and preparation, but this is quietness like tremors before an earthquake. Because every day is moving us closer to momentous change: the anniversary of a baby’s birth, the second coming of a King.
Yes, it is very dark. All seems still and unchanging. But can you feel the world turning? Can you feel that rushing beneath your planted feet?
At Advent, we return to the beginning (a new year, a baby’s birth), but we are always closer to the end (a wedding supper and a kingdom fully come). Like the movement of our planet, sometimes the swiftest path forward is also a return. And so, I am looking back and pressing on. I am remembering what has been and welcoming what is to come. I am waiting. I am standing still. Dawn is streaming ever closer to eyes open and arms held wide.
And I know this: Someone has come. Someone is coming. And every day brings us more.
I want more.
I want it for myself. I want it for this whole beautiful, broken world.
Advent cannot ever be fully practiced alone. Like the meeting of Mary and Elizabeth and their two unborn sons, our hope and expectation are meant to draw us together.
I am doing this again. Advent every day.
Will you join me?