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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Advent: Darkness, Silence, Unknowing and Longing

In this darkness I do not ask to walk by light,
but to feel the touch of your hand 
and understand that sight
is not seeing.

In this silence I do not ask to hear Your voice,
but to sense Your spirit breathe
and grow in me a heart
that is listening.

In unknowing I do not ask that You explain,
but for grace to comprehend 
Your love for me 
that casts out my fearing

In this longing I do not ask to forfeit pain,
but to gain the strength to love
through loss, and bear Your cross
in my waiting.

(Pat Bennett/John L. Bell, Iona Community)

Advent begins in darkness, the stage empty.  Hope seems dim at the nadir of the year.

The story of Christmas begins in centuries of silence.  The temple destroyed, the peoples scattered and occupied.  Even the priest Zechariah does not truly expect to meet God.

The plan of salvation is unveiled piece by piece to the unknowing, to villagers, shepherds, and foreign magi.

The season is born in a sharp, deep place of longing.

So when the Festival of Lessons and Carols choir at Trinity sang this song in a soft minor key this weekend, it caught my heart.  So much darkness in our world, so often we meet silence in our struggle to know the Mystery of our God.  The soul-piercing sorrow of emptiness precedes the Messiah's coming, and pervades the story, from Elizabeth's womb to Mary's witnessing her child's suffering.  This prayer does not gloss over those aspects of the story, but asks for Presence in the darkness, a breathing in and out of faith to bear the cross.

Today I am mourning the loss of a friend's baby.  Which is both the physical bleeding sorrowful loss of a tiny miscarried body, and the gaping unknowing loss of grasping onto our assumptions of how a loving God works in this world.  Another dream deferred.  Another wrenching shift of plans.  Another cycle of doubt, of walking a road not-chosen into a valley which has no guaranteed re-ascent.

Let's pray this Advent for those who are bearing a cross of waiting to sense the Love that holds them up, to catch a glimmer of light in their darkness.

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