This Sabbath is the first Sunday of the Season of Advent.
There is a tradition practiced all over the Northern Hemisphere. A series of five candles will be lit in the weeks leading up to the celebration of the birth of a poor indigenous child in a land conquered by a foreign Empire.
The Advent Wreath comes to us from the time of the horse and wagon. As the story goes…after the first heavy snow fall, country dwellers would take the wheels off their wagons and put sleds on them for the winter season.
One of those large wagon wheels was brought into a central place in the parlour and decorated with garlands of greenery. Four candles were placed at the four directions with a single white candle at the centre to represent the Light of the World.
In a world before snow ploughs, choices had to be made about travel priorities. Things naturally slowed down with the snow. People had time to consider in the candlelight the weight of life’s burdens. Time to consider where their thanks and loyalties lay - for what had made all the effort light and worthwhile.
Today, our choices are multiplied exponentially. Our choices are what makes us a culture. Our choices can bind or free us. Can we choose to reduce our choices to within a sleigh ride – just for a season? Taking the wheels off can create found time. Time to consider. Time to bake up new hopes. Time to craft presence. Time to look to neighbours and local storefronts and the needs of those found in the heart of the babe born to bring light into dark places.
To slow down you have to take the wheels off. Or at the very least – lift your foot off the gas. To do that, you have to decide that a few of those things on your to-do list just ain’t gonna get done this year.
What if you don’t accomplish all you hoped to?
What if you don’t get everything you need?
What if you took time to consider?
What if you took time to ask why you’re running so hard.
What if you slowed down enough to let some of those things you’ve been running from catch up?
What if I turned around and looked at the hole in my broken heart and let myself feel just how lonely, or lost, or afraid i really am? What if i listened to the child within me that i left behind so long ago – finding so many ways to never get hurt again – so many ways to run and busy and complicate my simple self so i’d never have to feel that pain again.
Doesn’t sound like much fun eh? Not exactly eggnog and mistletoe stuff is it?
But I tell you this. If you’d like to get somewhere close to the Spirit of the Christ season. If you’d like to get down to the reason for the season. Then, it involves letting your self slip into the dark places of this world. To feel the pain of lonliness and hunger, to experience the deep angst and helplessness that so many in this world deal with daily - is to begin to know why GOD became flesh.
God became flesh to feel the worst of what we feel. Or - to let us know that GOD always feels what we feel. GOD suffers when we suffer. GOD cries when we cry. GOD rejoices when we rejoice. And GOD gets angry when another innocent child dies of malnutrition because of the blindness and ignorance that wealth and hurry and busy can cause.
If GOD can feel the worst of what all the least among us feels, can i slow just long enough to let that wave of grief I’ve left in my wake catch up just a little?
To come face to face with our hurts and fears and pain - is to meet the Christ Child that is born in us each time we find the courage to slow and consider such things. To enter into that dark place is to find once again the simple light of a candle that provides hope in the dark; that provides the peace that gets us through to the Joy of a new dawn.
Until you stop you can’t catch it.
Until you’re lost you won’t find it.
Until you give up you just don’t get it.
So hurry up and wait for it.