The faith tradition I grew up in did not recognize acknowledge or celebrate Advent in any way. Ritual of most any kind garnered at the least a frown and suspicion, and maybe even a tirade directed at any faith tradition other than our own. And yes, I'm simply talking about denominational wars where our beliefs would get us into heaven, the church down the street might get a few people in, and the Catholics across town were all going to hell. Anybody that didn't fall close to us on the Christian spectrum must be a heathen and a terrorist. It was a harsh way to grow up.
The journey I find myself on right now opens my soul to the mysteries from many different traditions. I read someone's description on a blog just today of being a beginning zen-jesus lover - I like that title. The eastern traditions encourage us to be present in the moment instead of longing for some perfectly unimaginable by-and-by. The contemplative traditions help us sit where we are and be quiet so we can hear the breath of spirit. Moving away from a conservative evangelical position brings a depth and clarity to the journey that has been missing most of my life.
But I started this post with Advent. My friend, Jeanie (take a look at her blog - it's on my list) is posting wonderful thoughts about Advent. Reading her posts and pondering them got me to thinking about the dark. I don't particularly like the dark. I live for daylight savings time where I can bask in an extra hour of sunshine every evening. In times past, I've found myself depressed and distressed as the days grow shorter and the dark presses in. But lately, I'm not noticing that dismay nearly as much. I'm more comfortable with moving close to the winter solstice. The dark feels like a warm blanket instead of a strange and scary veil.
All around me are bright displays of twinkling Christmas lights - striving to hold off the darkness, to make everything around cheery and bright. Circumstances this year have slowed our personal Christmas decorating to a non-existent movement - all my lights still sit in boxes in the attic awaiting their electric charge. And I find I don't miss them yet. I haven't sat in the dark long enough yet this year to wrest the blessing from it. Honoring those dark times of year, those dark places within our own souls seems to me to be the key to really celebrating the light. Without the dark - the lights becoming harsh and glaring. But when I take the time to let the dark envelope me, then one tiny light illuminates my world when it arrives, without the need for garish displays.
Maybe our worry about too little light in the world results from our unwillingness to sit in the dark once in a while.