This is Advent

Was it light?

Was it light within?

Was it light within light?

Stillness, becoming alive, yet still.

                                                  ~Roethke

The Advent and Christmas stories we love so much, the ones which work deeply in our souls, which we carry for a lifetime and retell to our children and grandchildren, all have one thing in common: They occur before the onset of electricity.

These stories take us back to a time when life was simpler; when church bells rang, horses pulled sledges through the snow, and children gathered around the fire to hear their father read stories from the Gospel in the evenings. People lived closer to the rhythms of nature, the sun and the stars. And there was firelight everywhere.

We have lost much of that. Life has sped up, we have tremendous capacities, opportunity, freedom, intelligence, air travel, internet and virtual reality. This has not come without consequences.

Our modern world is so loud and so fast, one wonders how the angels are supposed to “get through” to us. How can we become still enough to perceive the spiritual world anymore? And yet, we are still mortal. We are human souls walking in the darkness of earth existence, seeking the light; the true light. When we turn to meditation or to prayer we return to candlelight. We may also desire to return to the innocence of the past, to not know what we know.

But what a deed it is to consciously bring the light of active thinking into the darkness of our time! Consider the candle: By the same force which draws the sap up through the plant or tree into the branches and then the flower, the wax of the candle is drawn up to the flame. And if this were the only thing burning, the light would actually not be very bright. The brightness comes about through tiny glowing embers of unburned carbon. Coarse matter, black soot when cold, becomes purified through warmth and is transformed into light!

The process by which we burn the lowest, coarsest part of ourselves into light is “called up” at Advent time. Rather than waiting for the light passively, we must become the light! And we do this because we are not perfect. We have to provide the warmth, the interest, the love for the world, in order to transform our darkness into radiant light.  We are in the continual “dance” trying to maintain a state of preparedness, because we do not know what is coming toward us out of the future. This is Advent.

by Carol Kelly