“Lighten our darkness!” Book of Common Prayer

It is this fourth Sunday of Advent, coming right after the longest night of the year. I am well aware of the darkness, manifesting itself in so many ways–universally, nationally, and I confess, within my self. I don’t remember an Advent when so many writer, poets and sages reflected on the darkness more frequently than the anticipation of the Light to come, and I observe they have good cause!

Anglican priest Tish Harrison Warren wrote this as Advent began:

To observe Advent is to lean into an almost cosmic ache: our deep wordless desire for things to be made right and the incompleteness we find in the meantime. We dwell in a world still racked with conflict, violence, suffering, darkness. Advent holds space for our grief, and it reminds us that all of us, in one way or another, are not only wounded by the evil in the world but are also wielder of it, contributing our own moments of unkindness or impatience or selfishness . NY Times, December 1, 2019

On this last Sunday of Advent, I am looking within at the darkness that I can bring to my worlds–my grief, my fears, my judgements, my weaknesses, my passivity, my despair–and I begin to see how they can occlude the Light that has already come and is coming again. With each Advent candle I light, the illumination tells me more about my own darkness, and mercifully, begins to show a way forward, which we realize in the birth of a child on Christmas.

There is hope in the observation of Sister Joan Chittister, when she writes:

Only the experience of our own darkness gives us the light we need to be of help to others who journey into the dark spots of life is only just beginning. It’s then that our own taste of darkness qualifies us to be an illuminating part of the human expedition…having been sunk into the cold night of despair–and having survived it–we rise to new light, calm and clear and confident that will be,will be enough for us. “Between the Darkness and the Light: Embracing the Contradictions of Life.” (Image:2015, 19-20)

Being honest with who I am, warts and all, clears the way not only to let the Light shine for and on me, but frees me to be a Light-bearer for others whose own darkness has enveloped and swamped them. I am deepened this Advent with the conviction that I need to persist in recognizing the facets of the dark in me that restrict me, separate them from the parts of the dark that nourish creativity and newness in me, and let them go with forgiveness, repentance and freedom. At the same time I am called to keep being Light for the places where I am called to be with peace, love, hope and joy!

Above all, once again, I am reminded to pay attention. I received a gift at a concert this weekend. An anthem was sung that I had never heard:

I have noticed joy/how it threads below/this darkness./have you seen it too?/And have you heard it/how it speaks/the unspeakable,/the bliss?/A kind of silence, a light/beneath pain./ Have you noticed?/It rises like fingers/and then–look!/It passes through. Threads of Joy, Laura Foley

I light my last candle before Christmas in the truth of who I am and the world is, and in Spirit trusting that the destructive parts of the dark will never put out the Light! The Light is worth the waiting in the dark!