Advent: In the Gathering Darkness

Snowy-BushThe Winter Solstice arrives next Sunday, the last Sunday in Advent. Outside, the season’s first real snowfall is winding down. The world is wrapped in white, a shield from the intense cold of the last week.

This morning I wrote letters responding to two young people who have experienced violence. Each had written me about the lasting effects of that violence, wondering how they might go ahead with their lives in the face of immense darkness. They are dear people, their hearts filled with goodness and caring. Continue reading

Advent, Part One

winter-pond.jpgAre are now firmly into the first week of Advent. This is a time of waiting. We await the first deep snow, the quiet of mid-winter, and the arrival  of spirit.

The woods are noticeably hushed, the hunters and treckers having departed and the skiers having not yet arrived. Only the chirp of the occasional bird, usually a Chick-a-dee, and the whining of the wind in the treetops disturb the growing silence. The stillness holds an edgy sense of anticipation, of imminence. Continue reading

Christmas Draws Nigh

Light in Winter's DarknessThe Solstice is past. Advent draws to an expectant close. Christmas Eve is nigh. During  Advent we are encouraged to slow down, to contemplate the miracle of birth, and the suffering inherent in the Christmas story. The story says a child is born, and as with each child that enters the world, hope is renewed. Yet the story also speaks to great cruelty and acts of genocide. In this season we are asked to acknowledge and hold both.

It seems terribly difficult for the dominant culture to face the great darkness inherent in our collective history.  First Nations people know the larger culture to be embedded in violence, as do other people of color. Perhaps 100 million Indigenous people died as a result of violence against them in the past 250 years in North America alone. Untold Africans and African Americans share hat experience. Thousands of children of all races die each year, victims of gun violence. disproportionately, those children are children of poverty or color. Continue reading

Advent: Joy, Hope, and Suffering

Today is the fourth, and last, Sunday in Advent.

It’s finally cold. A skiff of snow covers the ground. Flakes, flurries created by the relative warmth of the lake, dance in the sun. The Vigil Of Advent  nears its end. Peace and awakening are near. A child readies to make her way into the world.

It is the end of the college term. As happens, last night was a sort of sleep over comprised of young adults home for the Holidays, and their friends who are in transit home. This morning, wandering through the house, we catch sight of peacefully sleeping bodies, their faces tranquil. Occasionally, someone smiles in their slumber. I guess they were up late.

Today we will do ceremony for the many children and adults who were harmed years ago at a local charitable institution. We will bring gifts, a festive meal of pizza and brownies, and good will to the spirits who reside in that place. We will share a few moments of peace and warmth with them, and acknowledge their suffering.

Inherent in Christmas,  although largely ignored, is the suffering of the  expectant parents, a conquered people, and the adult Jesus to come.

In the Christian liturgical Calendar, Christmas is a relatively minor holiday, the Advent and birth primarily important as the fulfillment of prophesy. The birth sets the stage for Jesus’ suffering and death, his transition from human to divine. Often, the simple miracle of birth and rebirth becomes lost in the focus on death to come. Oddly, also lost is Holy Innocents Day. Holy Innocents’ falls a couple of days past Christmas, and  marks a politically motivated act of genocide against an enslaved Jewish people. One wonders what erases mystery, joy, and horror from our attention.

But all of that is in the future.

This week we attend to the rebirth of the sun, and the birth of the Holy in the form of a child. In doing so, we touch the Great Mystery. So we wait for a child to be born, for Hope to return to the world.

Advent: Hope Arising

This past weekend marked the third Sunday in Advent.

We were reminded that Advent is about hope. Amongst a cascade of challenging news about Pine Ridge, greed in wealthier tribes, child abuse, and climate change, we acknowledged the year’s uprisings of people around the world, gatherings where multitudes called for freedom, economic fairness, and solutions to climate change. Continue reading

Advent, Shamanism, and the Human Hunger for Peace and Justice

Yesterday was the second Sunday in Advent.

We spent the day with music. Jennie rehearsed with the UU choir , then sang at the second service. (I stayed home and worked, as it’s the end of the semester, and listened to Advent music on BBC). In the afternoon we attended the seasonal concert by Bela Voce.  An hour later, Jennie left for another choir rehearsal. I joined her a bit later for the Community Choir Fest and Carol Sing, a wonderful interfaith gathering.

Looking back over a packed day of seasonal music, we realized the theme of much of the music had been a deep hunger and thirst for peace and justice. I found myself wondering how it came to be that much of the Christian world focuses on that essential human longing for only five or six weeks a year. Clearly, the desire for peace, safety, and well-being runs deep and true. Yet, the river bed seems to be dry for much of the year. Continue reading

Advent: Waiting for Jesus and the Holy Ones

Today is the first Sunday in Advent.

Christmas Day falls on a Sunday this year, four weeks from today. The afternoon is dark and breezy, and here by the lake, feels much chillier than the 56 degrees that is the official temperature at the airport. Off to the west, there is the promise of light.

Advent is about waiting.

There is a Couer d’Alenes  story, told by Catherine Feher-Elston in Ravensong (pages 65-75),  about Circling Raven, a much-loved and respected shaman and chief, who, in 1740, was told by a small delegation of crows and ravens that a savior had been born many years previously. Circling Raven was then informed that men in black robes would bring details in about 100 years. The tribe was to remember the savior at the Solstice Celebration, and look for the Black Robes everywhere. Time passed, and the people did as they had been instructed. Protestant missionaries preached to nearby tribes but the Couer d’Alenes held firm in their waiting. Finally, in about 1835, they wrote an urgent letter to the Jesuits, who immediately sent priests to the people.  For some ninety-five years the Couer d’Alenes kept faith with the prophecy, waiting for word of the Holy One. Their early conversion to Christianity, and the presence of the priests, may have largely shielded them from the atrocities and hardships faced by other Western tribes. Continue reading

Mid-December Morning

I have not had the time to blog for a few weeks. In the time that has passed, Winter has settled in. The days are chill, the nights cold. There are a few inches of snow on the ground. It’s eight a.m., and the sun has just risen over the hill behind our home.

The semester is over. Grades are in; students have headed home for the Holidays. The Solstice arrives Tuesday, along with family.  Christmas is less than a week away. Now, even in the rush of Holiday preparations, we are reminded to slow down and be receptive. To wait. Continue reading