Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What's Stirring in Advent?

Our friend Gaye has called me back to the blogosphere once again.  Thank you!  Her comment posted way after my last blog entry asks a truly great spiritual direction question: "So what's stirring in your heart in Advent?"

I confess that Advent is my most difficult season of the year.  Some of it likely is about diminishing light and earlier dark and so I am  prone to easily move into a melancholy mood.  Rather like I notice that when it rains I'd just like to take a long nap.  A little blue.  Some of it is about the dissonance between a commercial culture that is playing holiday and Christmas music when my Christian subculture is celebrating Advent with its distinct themes of preparation for Christ's coming, John the Baptist's challenges to an unethical culture, and Mary's appalling consent and pregnancy.   I feel both bemused and angry that the commercial season so corrupts a religious holiday and those of us who are Christians have very often been complicit.  So in some ways I just try to bear the hype of this time of year, live as simply and prayerfully as I am able, and then enjoy the twelve days of the Christmas season.

Maybe because this time of year stirs up my heart in complex ways I am actually doing the inner work of preparation that Advent calls me to do.  But it is a different feeling than the song's lyrics, "It's the most wonderful time of the year!"   An Advent song that frequently brings me to tears, and echoes deep in my soul is by Christopher Drake, whose lyrics are:

What is the crying at Jordan? Who hears, O God, the prophecy?
Dark is the season, dark our hearts and shut to mystery.

Who then shall stir in this darkness, prepare for joy in the winter night?
Mortal in darkness we lie down, blind-hearted seeing no light.

Lord give us grace to awake us, to see the branch that begins to bloom;
in great humility is hidden all heaven in a little room.

Now comes the day of salvation, in joy and terror the Word is born!
God gives himself into our lives; O let salvation dawn!

There's a dark, rich longing to this season that I best hold in the hope of a God who can and does come to us, even while we focus our attention elsewhere--on our glittery lights and anxious worries about what we are going to give so and so for a present and how it is all going to fit into our budget.  But the Advent theme of watching and waiting for the coming of the Lord is what I seem to be called into year after year.

May God give you your heart's true desire for Christmas.

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