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Darkness in Advent

November 28, 2015

On Thanksgiving, Denise and my son, our oldest, Alec went hiking in the Rocky Mountain National Park. We hiked out to Cub Lake in the snowy and somewhat overcast afternoon. On Black Friday, Denise and I opted out of Black Friday along with REI Outdoor/Sporting Goods Store who kept their doors closed (REI #OptOutside) and we spent the afternoon hiking to Sprague Lake and Glacier Basin. The picture above is on the trail heading back from Glacier Basin to Sprague Lake.

Denise and I noticed how different the days were for hiking. Thanksgiving day was overcast and misty. The pictures I took showed that fact. Yesterday’s sky was a crisp blue and the pictures were stunning. Isn’t amazing how over the course of two days the skies can change so boldly?

Advent as a season in the church year is also a study in contrasts. On the one hand we have the anticipation of Christmas, even though it should be the anticipation of Christ’s coming again. On the other hand, we have the apocalyptic nature of the Gospel readings. Light and darkness, it is the struggle I have as I look at the readings. It is also a struggle I have experienced in years past with shorter days and less sunlight at this time of year.

My dear Sister in Christ, Cheryl Anne (she blogs at ) posted a blog by Jan Richardson about Advent that made sense to me 

We are sometimes travelers down life’s pathway during times of light and times of darkness in a spiritual and literal sense. The Gospel for tomorrow reveals that well. “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” (Luke 21:25-26) 

Of course, if you look at the headlines, there is plenty of darkness to go around. A waitress at a Waffle House in Biloxi, Mississippi is shot and killed by a customer after she told him smoking was not allowed in the restaurant. Really? He shot and killed her for that? As I remarked to one friend of mine, it makes me want to hike into the mountains and seek the solitude that seems to be missing in so much of the world.

So what do we do with this darkness? Do we give up? I think that is what Jesus might be getting to in the following verses: “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth.” (Luke 21:34-35) How easy it would be to sink into despair and simply give up. 

The blog Cheryl Anne shared included “A Blessing For Traveling in the Dark” which came out of Jan Richardson’s own experience of her husband’s  death during Advent two years ago. She found hope and light even as she journeyed through a time of spiritual darkness.

Last year I wrote about a Blue Christmas service we attended at Saint Agatha’s Episcopal Church in DeFuniak Springs, Florida.

It was a reminder to me that even in the times of Christmas lights and Advent anticipation, many walk through darkness at this time of year.

We are beginning the spiritual journey of Advent tomorrow. It is a time of anticipation and reflection. It is a time of darkness and light. It is a complex and often difficult time of year. My prayer for each one of us, dear reader, is that we will find hope and light, even in the darkness.

As Jesus said in Luke 21:36 — “Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” May we have that strength in this time of darkness. May we never give up. For the Lord will indeed bring you through this time. The Lord will give you strength for the journey.

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