We are entering a holy time, this season of Advent. And in opposition to the way that Christmas started the day after Halloween for the retail season, we have a tradition that is more about anticipation, quiet, and introspection. For us, this is not a season of insistent, loud commercialism.
The season of Advent, and the color of purple which is often used, is related to this period of time being a mini-Lent of a sort. As Lent is a period of fasting and reflection prior to the feast of Easter, this shorter period also represents a time to reflect, ponder, and consider prior to the feast of Christmas. Yet even with this similarity, Advent is different.
Lent gives us the emerging green plants and flowers. From the cold beginning of Lent to its end, we are reminded of the coming of resurrection in the warming of the world and the new life that springs from the soil.
Then there is Advent. During this time, we experience a gathering cold, the plodding loss of light. We pull out our sweaters, maybe noticing a hole or two as we pull them out for another year. We turn on our lights earlier and earlier as the evening comes closer and closer. We huddle together in the growing darkness to reassure ourselves that the light is coming. We huddle together to keep warm.
It is this huddling together, the way this season asks us to gather in homes, around warmth and light that reminds me of a formative poem/prayer in my life. In his book Prayers, Michel Quoist, writes about how everyday objects can remind us of the sacred. As he contemplates a "Wire Fence," he pens this prayer:
The wires are holding hands around the holes;
To avoid breaking the ring, they hold tight the neighboring wrist,
And it's thus that with holes they make a fence.
Lord, there are lots of holes in my life.
There are some in the lives of my neighbors.
But if you wish, we shall hold hands,
We shall hold very tight,
And together we shall make a fine roll of fence to adorn Paradise.
I suppose in my work in mental health I am often made aware of the “holes” that are in our individual lives and in the life of our faith community. I know that I am aware of the “holes” in my life as well. These holes can be hurts that we have suffered or inflicted; they can be about the felt loss of someone who is not here anymore. These holes can be about something that we wish could be, but is not. My prayer for us all, as we move through this Advent, is that we do hold tight to each other, allowing those places of brokenness in our lives to become holy. And then we can make “a fine roll of fence to adorn Paradise.”