Some might say that we begin and end our lives in the dark. Yet Advent speaks hope into that darkness, even if at times it may seem as if all the candles in the world aren’t enough to overcome the shadows that seems to loom so large. You only have to look at the news each day to be reminded of that. So many tales of tragedy, injustice,disaster and people struggling against the odds.
And yet…The light shines in the darkness…and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1).
Words that I love, yet that can seem both comforting and glib, too off pat, too easy to trot out at those times when I feel helpless in the face of evil and am desperate to do something, anything to ‘make things better,’ heal the terminal disease, bring back the loved one. In a media that thrives on sound bites, I’d hesitate to offer this to anyone suffering in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy; this past week here in the UK we’ve been shocked and saddened by several senseless attacks and the deaths that have resulted. When, or if, people are ready to hear John’s immortal words, so be it. Perhaps ,when disaster strikes, all we can best do is simply say, “I’m so sorry,” and let folk know that we’re there for them; offer practical help (of their choosing) or a listening ear, if they choose to accept it.
Though we can pray Come into the darkness, Lord; as it says in John Bell and Graham Maule’s reflection Cloth for the Cradle.
Or as priest Trish Harrison Warren reflects in the New York Times: Want to Get Into the Christmas Spirit? Face the Darkness.
” To practice Advent is to lean into an almost cosmic ache: our deep wordless desire for things to be made right and the incompleteness we find in the meantime…Advent holds space for our grief.” (New York Times, 30th November 2019)
How best might we, too, hold space for those who are struggling this Advent? Or do we ourselves need to lean into that darkness and find a safe holding space for our own grief? And how might we go about this?