Monday, 16 December 2013


It has taken me quite a few years to "get" Advent.  I'm not talking about the meaning that we are told, but the meaning for me, in my heart and soul.  Biblical studies and resources speak about the expectant waiting for, the anticipation of the birth of Jesus and the coming of Christ.  Somewhere in what I feel and experience, that preparatory sense exists, but it's secondary to a whole bunch of other emotions that are intensified at this time of year.

This photo by Bob McGauley of Sault Ste. Marie is the striking image that got me thinking about what Advent means to me.  The beautiful star that he captures, the product of natural light and ice, is symbolic of the hope that wells up in me at this time of the year.  It's irrational for me to feel more hopeful at Christmas than at any other time of the year, but that's the truth of it.  It's a complicated type of hopefulness that I feel though - a lot of ingredients get dumped into that pot of hopefulness and mixed together.  I feel happy to have most of the year behind me; good and bad, it's done with and the need to move on is ever present.  I feel eager for the year to come, the challenges that will need to be faced, the joyful and not-so-joyful times to be shared.  I'm eager to repeat some of what worked well and just as eager to try something different.  I feel a sense of promise and renewal that may be nothing more than getting ready to start on a new calendar - but I think it runs deeper than that.  I find that I relish the thought of a new start most, when I've had a chance to reflect on where I've been or what I've been through.  For me, that's when the next stage of the journey becomes so compelling, drawing us on toward the next experiences life will offer us.

The other aspect of Bob's image that has meaning for me at Advent are the lines in the ice that look like layers.  They make me remember the layers that make up my life, the people I love, the people who are present in my mind and no longer a physical presence.  Those lines and layers make me remember the joyful experiences of the last year and the times, frankly, when I did not want company and would have been a burden to others.  Those layers make me remember that my life is not one uniform, constant experience.  My life is more like a layer cake or a jelly roll (trust me to use a food metaphor) that has a combination of sweet and bitter, soft and hard, smooth and crunchy.  You might want to be able to pick only the good parts, but life serves a full helping of everything, the good and the bad.

I love this time of year, in spite of the push to consume and the drive to count down the shopping days.  The more I can focus on that feeling of hopefulness, the better chance I have to love the experience too.  This re-phrased version of Psalm 126 expresses it better than I have:

When the Divine Lover enters the human heart,
all yearnings are fulfilled!
Then will our mouths ring forth with laughter,
and our tongues with shouts of joy;

Then will we sing our songs of praise,
to You, O Beloved of all hearts.
For gladness will radiate out for all to see;
so great is your Presence among us.

Restore us to wholeness, O Healer
like newborn babes who have never strayed from You!
May all who sow in tears of repentance,
bearing seeds of Love,
Come home to You with shouts of joy,
leaving sorrow behind.  
Psalms for Praying - An Invitation to Wholeness, by Nan. C. Merrill, 2009, Continuum Publishing.

 Blessings to all. Pat<><

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