The beginning of Advent is a time to stop and make a choice of how to enter this Holy season. The darkest time of the year is an invitation in many traditions to celebrate and acknowledge the Presence of God in several forms. As a contemplative Christian, the invitation is to dwell in the dark, unknown and not yet. It’s a call to dwell in the reality of darkness. Darkness has a way of surrounding and causing a sense of coming within. It slows life down and is the invitation to sleep.
When I lived in Alaska the winter darkness did not have a good effect on this desert rat. I had to sit under a lamp that mimicked the sun so many hours of the day just to stay sane. Even though my life was busy, I knew if I didn’t take the time to bathe in that light, my life would totally stop with depression. Too much darkness without the promise of light can kill.
I can also remember summers in Alaska with 24 hours of daylight and the challenges of trying to put a 1-year old to bed. To be honest, in a way I was glad when long days were coming to an end I was given a chance to rest.
Too much light can kill, also. I tend to think in our age we are bathed in too much light. Any time in our lives there can be light. Even when the darkness calls, switches are flipped and work and business continues.
The same principle applies for the darkness within. When anxiety pops up, TVs are on, phones are checked, or some other distraction is available to shoo it away. For some there is a sense of being out of practice with what to do when it’s dark, whether literal darkness or internal darkness of death, terror, pain, or loss. It is overwhelming and frightening. There is a desire to control it, yet sometimes in life there is no light switch to flip.
The honoring of seasons like Advent gives an opportunity to remember that darkness is just the other side of light; that God is in the midst of it all. Rather than using it as a count down to Christmas, it is an opportunity to dwell inwardly, learn how to see in the dark and look for the little candles of light. Learning to stand in the dark heightens awareness and creates vulnerability , empathy, and trust. In my home we always turned out all the lights in the living room when we lit the advent candles. Those flickering lights created a hush and an instant dwelling place in the reality that life is so much more when we take the time to be quiet in what is. It was a time to remember that God has entered this world, one of dark and light.
Practice: Take an evening and don’t turn on any lights or other electronics. Use alternative light like a candle or a flashlight. See what is noticed as you dwell in what is.