|Hieronymus Bosch, Hell 2|
To honor the season, I recommend listening to Leonard Cohen's "Anthem."
And when you've finished weeping--if you're wondering what Advent is all about, or if you just want a refresher on why Advent is a particularly good idea--read this NYT op-ed piece by the Rev. Tish Harrison Warren: "Want to Get into the Christmas Spirit? Face the Darkness."
Many of us in the U.S. are struggling through a three-year Advent (and counting) as the swamp is systematically drained of truth, respect, honor, and compassion. With repulsive swamp creatures surfacing one by one, and sometimes in whole flotillas, it's only natural to want to flee the darkness.
But Advent is about looking directly into the darkness.
It's about living in Narnia under the white witch's domination, where it's "always winter but never Christmas." It's about the wars that will be fought again, the holy dove that will be caught again, bought and sold and bought again. It's about crying out with the souls under the altar, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” (Revelation 6:10).
It's about reality.
Strangely, Advent is also about hope. Not the hope provided by Santa and eggnog and presents under a tree, lovely as those things are. The hope they provide is a momentary distraction that goes out to the curb with the Christmas tree, leaving us with bleak January.
Advent hope, by contrast, plumbs the dark depths and yet still sees light breaking through--faint, perhaps sporadic, but persistent.
That too is reality.
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
--Gerard Manley Hopkins