Advent is often understood as a time of waiting expectantly. Our scriptures focus on Mary in her faithful pondering and Zechariah in his mute vigil. Yet Advent is a time not only of waiting, but also of preparing. Indeed, visions which describe the world which God intends – lion and lamb in reconciled harmony, sword beaten into plowshare – these are visions not only of that for which we wait, but that for which we must work. Alongside texts recalling the quiet expectation of Zechariah and Mary, we read texts recalling the urgent cry of Isaiah and John the Baptist: Prepare!
This year, Advent themes of struggle and darkness mirror all too closely the headlines of our day. The last hospital left in Aleppo is bombed. Confederate flags find renewed life as banners for racial supremacy. Episcopal Church signs are defaced with hateful slogans.
Advent calls us not to passive expectation but to preparation, to putting on the armor of light, so that as Christ’s own light illuminates the darkness, we too might shine as agents of that light.
This poem, “Winter Sunset” by Jennifer Woodruff, has spoken to me for some years, but never more than now.
The sky is blue and rose tonight
The clouds paint trails across the sun
The dark comes swiftly down the road
And all the day is left undone.
These are the colors that I claimed
The blue for darkness, pain, and loss
The rose for joys as yet unborn
And blossoming at countless cost;
These are the choices that we make
Here in the shadow of the night
To know our ambiguity
And yet to live into the light. (Weavings, XVII, 1, p. 22)
As you and I wait to hear once more the message of Christ's Incarnation, may we rededicate ourselves to speak and act as mediators of that same Incarnate Love. Here, in the shadow of the night, may we yet live courageously into the Light.
Faithfully and fondly,
The Rt. Rev. Alan M. Gates
Jennifer Woodruff, “Winter Sunset,” Weavings: A Journal of the Christian Spiritual Life, Vol. XVII, No. 1 (January/February 2002), (Nashville, TN: The Upper Room, 2001), 22. Used with permission.
Photo: Courtesy of the Sisters of the Society of St. Margaret, Duxbury.