by Linda Seger, ThD, author of God’s Part in our Art
We know the end of the story. No matter how dark and dreary the beginning of winter is, and no matter how many things are going badly in this world, we know that the Christ child will be born and we know when – December 24 – some time in the night. And so advent becomes a preparation for that joyous occasion. We put up decorations and we shop in order to give to those we love. We listen to happy Christmas carols. So even though the joyous event is December 24, we feel the joyous energy ahead of time as we wait and prepare for the Christmas programs and write Christmas cards and shop with good thoughts about how much our loved one will enjoy our gift.
But the actual event,, 2100 years ago, hadn’t given much foreshadowing of what was going to happen at that particular time and in that particular place. There was hope for someday. But nobody knew the end of that story and how quickly the good ending would come.
I wonder if things are similar this year. I find this quite a dark time. Thousands keep dying from co-vid. People get sick. People divide up and decide and fight over vaccines and over masks indoors and social distancing. We feel oppressed by each other. We try to get along and it doesn’t work very well. We try to figure out different ways of doing things – do we do normal things or not? What friends can we relate to and which ones do we have to stay away from in order to keep ourselves safe? What are the shared values? Sometimes it doesn’t seem like there are any. It feels to me like a very dark time without an end clearly in sight.
Some promised this would be over soon but they promised before. The promise is only as good as the consequence that proves the person who promised was trustworthy. And even then, we’re not totally sure whether we can have faith and hope in any promises.
People cope and carry on their usual rituals as the shepherds must have done – night by night. Mary and Joseph were just coping and following orders and doing what they were asked to do, no matter the circumstances. The Wise Men searched the skies, waiting and waiting and waiting for some sign.
I wonder if Advent this year would become more meaningful if we just settled into the darkness a bit to see what it really felt like when we don’t know what’s coming. Rather than presume the end of the story, what if this was the story right now? We might ask for the Christ child to come, but what if we were willing to settle in to the feeling of being captives waiting to be ransomed, of feeling the lonely exile that we live in, and just, for little bit of time, be willing to feel the dimensions of the bleak midwinter and live in this period of time when there is darkness. Rather than deny it or ignore it or live with such hope, might we not more fully understand our desperate need for a Savior, for the Christ child to come, and have greater hope and joy when He comes? We dwell in a reality which we have rarely been. Perhaps the Light will be brighter because we do not deny the Darkness.