Advent: Meaning in the Darkness

There will come a day this winter when looking outside at 4:30pm to darkness will cause me to feel stir crazy. But that day is not tonight, and this evening’s deep purple sky is feeding my weary bones, wrapping fleece around them and stirring up a contented sigh. I long for this dark part of the year now. My summer tan has faded. My toenail polish from the sultry, early fall has long chipped off. My bare feet complain now against the wood floors in the morning, and working outdoors I have doubled my collection of wool socks. Happily.

I used to place the meaning of the darkness onto the nativity. The perpetuation of a midnight manger scene and the image of a blazing star showing shepherds the way. Anymore, it doesn’t matter to me if Jesus was born in March or December, at 3 in the morning or 3 in the afternoon. I have read scholarly works about the more likely history of the magi and of the actual building that Jesus would have been born in…not so much a barn like we think of it today, and more of a secondary room off a family dwelling. But the gospel authors are consistent with the detail of the manger, so the commonly preached theme of Jesus being born humbly is far and away accurate. It’s not that the facts of Jesus’ birth are unimportant, they are just no longer meaningful to me. What does matter is that when I meditate on God’s love, the imagery that floods my mind is a deep and luminous darkness. When I breathe and pray, and call forth the presence of the holy in my body, the cavernous place where my soul lives is black, and still. Its’s a darkness full of presence, not emptiness. It’s a black night that holds promise, not desolation. My eyes cannot be my guides in this place. Here, I feel my way. I trust myself in this dark winter, and know that Jesus would nod his head if I told him that prayer without ceasing is easy once you learn to stop trying.  

What matters now, is that God’s perfect perfection chose a uterus as the place to bestow the hope of prophets- the hope of a nation. In a skin and breath body, God’s wisdom was fully imparted for the benefit of those who had hearts and ears to receive it. In the mysterious darkness of a womb, within the dense black of the body’s interior, God’s perfect love was manifested. When I look out my kitchen window now, it is 5:17pm. The sky’s purple had deepened to a richer and bluer pigment. And the hours of night that lay ahead stretch in a long line of promise.

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