Part of my Advent practice is Evening Prayer by the light of the candles of the Advent wreath. Sitting in more darkness than usual, I have a greater appreciation for those who lived by candlelight alone. And when I finish my prayers, I take my pencils and draw, usually something that has caught my attention from the readings or the psalms. An image, an idea, a moment that needs to be expressed in image and not word.
I draw in this state of mostly dark, too. The candles are lovely, but not all that helpful. So often, by the light of the day, I see the colors I selected and how they blended and worked together and am surprised. What I thought was a dark blue in the darkness is really a deep green. And I didn't think I'd used that much yellow, but it's pale and harder to see by candlelight.
Thankfully my drawings are my prayers to God alone and are not for public consumption, so how they look is not of particular consequence to anyone but me. Many times I like the look of what has been created, but sometimes I don't.
Advent is a time when we remember we walk in darkness. The shadows of life fall on our path, and our steps aren't easily seen as we take tentative step after tentative step. We make decisions in this place where our vision may not be a sharp as we hope.
Sometimes we are surprised at the way things work out. Even with our vision dimmed, we are amazed by the beauty that results in our stumbling forward. In our deep grief we may decide to step blindly forward to open ourselves to love again, and that love is good and life-giving. In our fear of change we may find the minuscule courage of faith that says, "Yes!" to try something new. In our discomfort of growth, we may feel the pull of God as our selves and souls expands to understand we can be more than our past pains and mistakes.
Yes, in the darkness, God moves and we respond to that movement. And many times that movement, change, and adjustment is a good and joyful thing.
But we are often troubled by these outcomes, as well. We humans make decisions with our sight blinded and our ears stopped. We think we see all the aspects and particulars and angles, but really we are stiff-necked and limited, silencing the voice of God and sticking to our self-imposed rigidity. In this place, we can find ourselves dictating how love should look, and when it doesn't look just that way, we storm out of the relationship, blaming the other. In our fear of the dark, we can refuse to move, crawling instead into the pain of our brokenness and staying there, a wounded creature unwilling to offer ourselves for healing or change.
In our false belief God is only present in the Light, we can skip over the power of walking by faith and not by sight, of sitting in the quietness, in the darkness, and in the silence.
Advent holds us in the darkness. Our liturgical wisdom asks us to slow down and sit for a while in the dark, in the silence, and in the presence of God and reflect.
Reflect upon the past year, the way love has been surprisingly present, the way love has changed us and birthed us into something new. Reflect on how God has changed and is still changing us. Reflect upon those we need to forgive, those we have wronged through thought, word, and deed. Reflect upon that which has been lost and grieve. Reflect upon that which has been born and celebrate.
Reflect on the images we have drawn this year and what they have expressed about ourselves. Be surprised, be startled, be sad, and be joyful.
Sit in the dark.