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Entering Deep Darkness and the Sacredness of Advent

by The Rev. James D. Findlay

James FindlayIn these days of November, we approach the shifting of various cycles of time.  One is the calendar year of the wider culture, in which the Holy Days of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are times of celebration of family, fellowship, and sharing.  Another is the end of one Liturgical Church Year and the beginning of another, the change of season from Pentecost (or Kingdomtide) to Advent.  Finally, after savoring the longer days of late summer and early autumn, we enter the days and nights of deepest darkness and diminishing daylight.  And as we do, despite the increasing demands on our time and talents, we feel the rhythms of Earth, Sun, Stars, and Moon calling us to ponder the richer inner landscapes, comfort, and rest which darkness, endings, and beginnings provide.

The final weeks of the Pentecost season can also be seen as the final rising of the sacred flow of Kingdomtide, when the Holy Spirit attains its broadest reach, and the unseen yet powerful growth of God’s reign reaches its highest ebb.  Our Gospel texts are come from Matthew 25, and are a kind of climax of Jesus’ teaching: parables shared with his disciples and other followers in the Temple before his departure from his earthly form.

Both the parable of the Talents (25:14-30) and the Judgment of the Nations (25:31-46) make clear that we are to serve God in wise and fruitful ways, and to treat each human being, especially those hungry or in prison, as the presence of Christ that they are.  There is a sharpness, and even severity, to these narratives.  And forgiveness for those who stray or err is not part of the story!  Yet, though some of us may find these images of judgment to be disturbing or uncomfortable, they may also be a challenge to our desire to make the spiritual journey an always-easy one.  Perhaps we can experience these texts as an invitation: to bring our inner and outer lives into greater balance and harmony, so that our commitments to justice and peace are sustained by perseverance, and by distinctive choices made wisely and well.  Though we trust in the promise of God’s Reign on Earth, we also know that is the result of human work, done with care, in daily rounds of prayer and practice, over many years.  Ultimately, the rising tide of the Kin-dom of Divine Love is not dependent on the political fortunes of human power structures. Instead, it looks to the least of our brothers and sisters – prisoners, immigrant children, oppressed communities – and the broken parts of ourselves, to discover the Divine Presence.

As one Church Year ends and another begins, we enter Advent’s sacred time, and its call to spend time in quiet preparation, waiting with patience rather than being consumed by the “holiday busyness” of a commercial capitalist economy.  As the Earth and Climate shift in our own days, Jesus speaks to us once again from the Temple, telling his disciples how to discern the time.  Rather than succumbing to fear when the sun, moon, and stars are altered, however, he urges us to hope: these are not days of despair or uncertainty.  Instead, seeing with the eyes of the Spirit, God is not absent, but is nearer to us than ever.  The entire season of Advent, suffused by the growing holy darkness of the weeks before Winter Solstice, can be a time for us to watch attentively, like the doorkeeper at the gate of the house (Mark 13:34).  As the light recedes, we can sense ourselves entering more deeply into the comforting dark womb of God’s nurturing love.  May we use this time to take sacred moments for meditation; savor the gift of God’s Spirit in every breath we take; watch for God’s coming; and to taste of God’s constant nearness in all that we do and all that we are.

Note from author: Please feel free to contact me via e-mail at sleight_of_time@yahoo.com.  I wish to engender a conversation among us about how the Word and Spirit are active in our lives, and how we might nurture these gifts further. I also am happy to work with groups and individuals on how to nurture the Word and Spirit among us. Please visit my Facebook Page at   www.facebook.com/pages/Spiritual-Accompaniment-Services/219750211459838  as another way of being in this sacred conversation. I look forward to hearing from many of you soon!

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