Dear Atticus, the light of the world

I have a friend who says that Advent is his favorite season. Why? I think because Advent is a time of exquisite balance between the sadness of the mess we live in, and the bliss of the world we would like to live in. Advent is when we acknowledge that bliss is not the blotting out of pain with port and plum pudding, but a process, a pilgrimage, a pregnancy, and–amidst the chaos of the world’s governing–a cry for the coming of the reign of God. – Margaret Hebblethwaite

Church candle on black

Church candle on black by KOREphotos. Shared under a Creative Commons license.

Dear Atticus,

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the time when we prepare our hearts for the celebration of Jesus’ birth, the arrival of the light of the world. I sometimes feel a need to prepare my heart for Advent, but you don’t advent Advent. That’s why we celebrate it, so we can give our hearts space to be ready for Christmas. We read books and sing songs and get excited about what is coming. It helps if you also celebrate Christmas until Epiphany, so you can give your heart plenty of time for Christmas once it gets here. But your dad and I never manage to make it quite that long.

Last year, I felt as if I was making the journey with Mary, feeling you kick just as she must have felt the baby inside of her. Last year, we were waiting for our lives to change. We were waiting expectantly for you. And you have been a light in our lives, with your sunny smile and quick laugh.

But this has been a dark, tired year with a steep learning curve. Here at the end of the year, I feel as if the light is finally breaking in. You are not taking such a physical toll on my body, and it is making a huge difference.

In my own life, I have found that a large part of faith is just showing up. I have not shown up this year. I could not see the point, because there was no light breaking into my darkness. Now, though, I feel a hope and optimism that I have not managed in a while, one that is difficult to put into words. During Advent, our work is to wait and watch. I like this because it takes the pressure off. We don’t have to have perfect Christmas cards or neatly wrapped presents. We don’t have to remember to do our Advent reading every single night. We just need to be paying attention, ready to see the light when it appears.

I hope you learn how to pay attention. I can’t tell you what that might look like for you, but in my life it means things like reading The Divine Hours, helping people who need it, and seeking out people’s stories of faith. Your dad helps me to see when he encourages me to take time for myself, believes in my dreams. Some people journal, some take walks, some paint, some go camping. The important thing is to make yourself open to the light.

Being open to the light might not sound like much, but I am content to do the work of waiting, to expect that Jesus will come, to let Christmas happen to me. It’s a risky proposition: there’s a good chance that it might just work through me to change the world. I find it hard to believe in that sort of thing sometimes. But then I remember that change doesn’t often look like fireworks in the night sky, but instead like a single star shining persistently, showing the way.

Into the darkness, the darkest part of the year, the light of the world arrives. And so we wait, expecting to see.


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