I try to get up at 5:30 am every morning for some contemplation and writing.
I’ll admit, since the cold set in, and the mornings have been darker and darker, I have tended to stay in bed, under my warm blankets for a few more hours. When the sun is wrapped in night, you want to remain covered in your slumber. It’s romantic to get up with the sunrise. It’s hellish to get up before the warmth of the day even thinks about beginning to greet you.
People make a big deal about the winter solstice. Phrases about the light winning, about the darkness receding, about days finally getting longer and the longest, darkest point of the year being behind us are thrown around by secular and religious folks. They all seem to be hinting at a resurrection, hinting at something akin to life returning to that which is cold and dead, hinting without ever saying that good triumphs over evil.
I don’t know why we don’t come right out and say it. I mean, we’re all thinking about it. This play of dark and light does something, ignites our mythological imaginations, places us in a location where we can firmly see the lines between good and evil. Or so we think. There is a metaphor about this happening at the end of the year, about light increasing as we pass from one hellscape of time to the next.
For Christians, this solstice happens in the midst of Advent, when we light candles to remember waiting in the darkness. When we light candles to keep ourselves waiting and not despairing. When we light candles because it’s what our ancestors did in the cold, dark mornings before the blessed day we can sing “Joy to the world the Savior reigns.” People have been lighting candles in the name of hope, faith, joy, peace, and Christ for centuries, we’re just following tradition, trying to bring, to carry, to hold a little bit more light in the world than there was before the wick was set ablaze.
But even with the flickering flame passed down from ancient times to us, the fire we receive and renew, there is still this pesky thing about the darkness swallowing us up every day. Flames only burn for so long before we have to face the night and buy more candles.
What are we to do when the longest night of the year seems to go on forever, stretching into the shadow of death?
Mary held peace in her womb.
This is an idea that has captured me this advent. She incubated, grew, and birthed peace on earth. Blessed is she among humanity indeed!
The light of the world was once tenderly tended to in a uterus, fed by an umbilical cord, kicked Mary’s ribs, sat on her bladder, and waited to be born. This light is the light of all men, secular and religious, and this light is peace.
Maybe it’s not light that we need to hold onto during these dark nights. Maybe it’s peace. Maybe when my alarm goes off at 5:30 am, I’m not getting up in the dark, I’m awakening to peace.
Peace. Stillness. Quiet. These are things that are in short supply these days, at least they are unless we are intentional about making room and crafting time for them. Mary was intentional about embracing the light and accepting peace into herself. She made room in her body. She said yes to peace.
Advent is about waiting in the midst of darkness, primordial chaos that the Holy Ghost broods over. Maybe that brooding ghost is here to impregnate us with peace, to place this stillness in our souls, to set quiet in our hearts that we may ponder these things about light and dark, about hope, faith, joy peace, and yes Christ. Pondering those that came to worship a babe after waiting for the proclamation from divinity that the wait was over, that peace had come, that truly light would swallow darkness and the long night of the soul would burst forth with sunrises and dawns breaking over the mountains.
Awake oh sleeper; it’s time to rise.
We grow complacent in our waiting, sleeping through the long nights, bracing against the face hurting cold of the days. Sunlight is in short supply, and we are reticent to take advantage of it. Rain, snow, ice, hail all take away from the light, hiding the needed sun behind clouds looming with winter weather and more reasons to stay in slumber.
But, if we are growing peace in our heart of hearts, stilling our minds, contemplating and hoping, faith-ing, the quiet becomes a way through the gray day and the dark night. See, peace is for all. It’s not something that we keep internally, just as Mary couldn’t keep Christ in her belly for all time. He was meant to be shared, to be birthed, to be given away. The peace the Holy Ghost incubates in us is intended to be given to the world, shared, birthed.
Waiting is our birth pains. It’s the contractions before the storm, before the labor, before the joy of seeing peace on earth incarnated in the light. Waiting is good for us. It lets peace develop, grow arms and legs, become a real thing, kicking our ribs, giving urgency to our actions. Peace isn’t the complacency of staying in bed. Peace is the active proclamation that humanity is on whom the favor of divinity rests.
Let peace develop as you feel the pains of labor start to take your body over. Groan. Cry out. Scream with primal fear and rage. But don’t let go. The Spirit won’t let go of you, and she is doing a wondrous thing.
Peace be with you.