What do we do with the days that stretch between now and Christmas? (Clue: shopping and cocktail parties may not be the most satisfying answers.) How can we slow down and get quiet, even for just a few minutes? How do we hear the silence through the jangle of year-end deadlines and the buzz in our own heads? How do we make room for something holy, when what we’re mostly waiting for is a better job, or a decent place to live, or a letter from a college, or a little love in our life?
Here’s a picture of Advent that one poet paints. “Look how long the weary world waited, locked in its lonely cell, guilty as a prisoner. As you can imagine, it sang and whistled in the dark. It hoped. It paced and puttered about, tidying its little piles of inconsequence. It wept from the weight of ennui, draped like shackles on its wrists. It raged and wailed against the walls of its own plight. But there was nothing the world could do to find its own freedom. The door was shut tight. It could only be opened from the outside. Who could believe the latch would be turned by a pink flower—the tiny hand of a newborn baby?” (Pamela Cranston)
It surprises me every year to remember that the darkness of the world is pierced by the twinkling eyes of a baby in a manger, someone who wants to be fed and changed. “I see you,” the eyes say. “I need you.” Somehow we find God and our best selves in this fragile promise between two people… maybe a parent and her child, maybe a couple of friends or siblings, maybe even between strangers. “I’ll take care of you, until you don’t need me anymore,” we promise. And then we hope against hope that “You’ll take care of me, if I ever get lost, or when I’m sick or old and tired.” We know it doesn’t always work out very well, either in a particular household or within the family of man, so we tell the story again each December to hear what we’ve been missing, and to see if we can get it right this time around. The only eyes that God can look out are ours, the season reminds us, and if the world’s wounds are going to be bound up, then it’s our hands that will do it. And every heart will be made a little more whole in the process.
This Saturday, Caroline and I will lead an Advent retreat: two hours of silence and a few carefully chosen words. We will invite you to experience the particular sacrament of this season: life being born anew.
Be silent. “I ask you to be thoughtful about the noise in your life. Perhaps you might consider tuning out, turning off, and saying no. Saying no might be the word of God.” (Z. Vance Wilson)
Watch. “You reveal your presence to us in unexpected places, in unexpected times, through unexpected people, in unexpected forms.” (Jayakiran Sebastian)
Wait. “Ask me about this blessing… and I will tell you… of the seed that knows its season and the wordless canticle of stars that will not cease their singing…” (Jan Richardson)
Make space. “When Advent seeps into our souls, we come to understand that small is not nothing and empty is not bereft. To be small is to need, to depend on the other. Smallness bonds us to the rest of the human race and frees us from” isolation. “To be empty is to be available inside to attend to… the blessings of life.” (Joan Chittister)
Join us in the chapel on Saturday morning from 9:30-11:30.