Opening the Door to Advent: Day 1

Advent, Day One:
It seems as though we’ve been walking in this forest forever, daily trekking deeper into the dark woods. At first, in the golden light of September, we revelled in the slanting light, the gentle breeze, the energizing zing in the air. Slowly and steadily, we walked further into the wood, each day closing in around us little by little: more shadow, less light.

Today we have arrived at the doorway to the labyrinth of December. We hear the voices of the carolers, and we notice the twinkling lights, the bustle, the rushing to prepare, prepare, prepare. We join in. And also we stand aside, wondering if this is really the meaning of it all. We celebrate the community the season brings, the sense of participating in ancient rituals and traditions. And we sigh and roll our eyes, frustrated with the commercialism and materialism of it all, the knowledge that the season has been co-opted by a capitalist system that must see profits this month in order to succeed.

We stand at the door of the labyrinth. We’ve been walking in increasing shadow for weeks now, and today we step into the deeper shadows of the maze, carrying our heart-lights to guide us, seeking the light that will carry us into the coming year. In the Christian tradition, people pause and consider the coming of the child of light, the one who breaks the chains of oppression, sets the captives free, brings healing to the nations. Ancient pre-christian European traditions and their modern-day followers await the birth of the solar child at Yule. We recognize in both of these over-laid traditions that the outer shadows are mirrored by our inner shadows, and just as we cannot escape the shadows of the outer world, we must walk through the inner shadowscape in order reach the light at the center. And together, we seek the light that is coming.

Today, we walk the first passage into the labyrinth. What are you carrying this year as you walk? Can you give it a name? Write a bullet list of the heavy things that weigh down the pack on your back. What fears and anxieties and angers do you carry? What complacency? What closed boxes reside in that pack, boxes you fear to look into? Can you simply give them names for now?

Now consider the light which you carry in your hand. Picture it. Is it a bright flashlight with a focused beam? Or are the batteries dying, offering a diffuse and precarious light? Is it a lantern, full and bright with a strong flame? Or a candle, flickering in a protected glass jar? Consider the strength of the light you carry. How can you shore it up and strengthen it for the coming journey?

If your batteries are dying, what will refuel them? Will you do one piece of art a day? Even if it’s a 3’x5′ doodle? Will you read three poems every morning when you wake up? Will you walk for half an hour on your lunch break? Will you sing along to the radio in the car without worrying about what people in the other cars think? Will you call someone you love? If your batteries are weak or your flame is low, commit to doing one thing today to strengthen your light on this first passage into the shadow-realm.

Good. Let’s walk together through today’s passage. What a lovely light you carry! Mine’s been flickering a lot lately. Sometimes, it burns so brightly and cheerily, I think I’ll never have to worry, but then a gust of wind comes along without warning and nearly extinguishes it. But we can feel safer if we walk together. If one of us begins to lose the light, let’s trust that someone else’s light will be sufficient for a little while until we can get our own going strongly again.

Gratitude List:
1. That fox we watched nosing along the creek and the bosque yesterday. This morning, in the hollow at the base of the cherry tree by the creek, we imagine that some woods and weeds tucked into the shadows there was the fox curled up and sleeping. It really does look like it!
2. We saw two of the white squirrels at Londonderry Village yesterday. Rumors are that there are as many as five.
3. Seasonal rituals and celebrations that help to offer comfort and direction for the inner journey.
4. Companions in the labyrinth of December. Thank you for sharing your lights.
5. The light will return.

May we walk in Beauty!

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