Waiting for the light.
This past weekend I had the great joy of spending three days with our eldest daughter, Maggie. She had purchased Ted’s car and flew home from Northeastern Ohio, where she lives, to drive it back. I rode back with her, eager for time together and looking forward to being immersed in the life she has built for herself in Akron. (Which is a remarkably vibrant city!)
As Monday in Akron dawned, I woke with an ache in my bones that augers the arrival of an intense low-pressure system. Pulling back the drapes revealed an eerily gloomy day; not entirely unlike the deep threat of a June storm. But without the energy and anticipation of something coming. Maggie said that is what winters are like in Akron. Heavy, leaden gray. Warmer than ours, wetter. But with less sunshine.
My flight to MSP from Cleveland was an early one and we landed in sparkling sunshine. My spirit was hungry for the light. Hungrier than I had realized. And this after just a day and a half in the darkness.
Advent is a season set aside for waiting and watching. It was built into the liturgical year so that we—who are post-Easter people—can experience what it felt like to wait for a Messiah. For centuries, the people of God waited, hungry for light. Hungrier perhaps than they realized. They were not a people without hope. After all, they trusted in God’s ancient and abiding promise of deliverance. But the prophet Isaiah called them “the people who walked in darkness….”
Their darkness was not the darkness of an Akron winter. But it would not have been unlike the personal darkness of seasonal affective disorder, depression, grief, abuse, isolation or neglect. Neither would it have been unlike the communal darkness of poverty, oppression, conflict, exclusion, racism, or xenophobia.
Advent starts on Sunday, Dec. 1. Your pastors and worship leaders invite you to experiment with a seasonal discipline of weekly worship for the four weeks of Advent. Choose one service to attend each week or alternate between the two. Maybe one Sunday you will worship elsewhere with friends. But try the experience of letting weekly worship undergird your waiting and support you in whatever darkness in which you find yourself.
We also encourage you to step away from as much busy-ness as you can. Give yourself time to wait, time to anticipate, time to watch the darkness. Let the holy hunger of waiting on God lead you into the joy of what comes by the light of a glittering star. After a disciplined wait, Christmas comes with a poignant and deep joy, reaching into all the hungry, hidden places of your body, mind and soul. Filling you with a hope and joy that is enduring, even through the long Minnesota (and Ohio) winters.
Together and individually, we are entering a deeply holy time of year. May you be blessed as together we make our way through Advent.
In peace and longing,