Having gone to bed just after midnight, I couldn’t sleep with the realization that today is December 1. For so many years you and I have pinged each other on this day and said, more or less, let it commence!
I tossed and turned through the wee hours, not out of trouble or angst but because of the thing that periodically keeps me from deep rest: I was writing in my head. Not a bad reason for insomnia. (Despite how in need of caffeine I find myself this morning.) Perhaps I should return to my former habit of keeping pen and notebook bedside.
Before I turned out the light last night, I picked up Frederick Buechner’s Listening to Your Life and read the entry for December 1. At the start, Buechner quotes from The Book of Common Prayer—how gorgeous is this?
‘Give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which thy son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility: that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty, to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal.’
Ah, but you (my fellow high church-y friend) are likely familiar. I wonder if you’ve read Buechner’s thoughts on the prayer:
All the paradoxical themes of Advent are compressed into that handful of words: Christ coming at Christmas time in great humility and again at the end of time in glorious majesty—Christ coming as a child to save us and as a king to judge us—mortal life, immortal life. They clatter against each other like shutters in the wind with all their points and counterpoints.
This section especially struck me:
‘Cast away the works of darkness,’ they say, and put on ‘the armor of light.’ Maybe those are the words that best sum up the paradox of who we are and where we are. Somewhere between the darkness and the light. That is where we are at Christmas. And not just at Advent time, but at all times. Somewhere between the fact of darkness and the hope of light. That is who we are.
No wonder we all feel restless, torn, like strangers in a strange land!
But, bully for us, Advent means “coming,” and Buechner writes that what is coming is an “unimaginable invasion… an invasion of holiness.”
Oh—when my head is on straight—how what I want for Christmas is Christ! But how I fumble around in the pitch black! You and I will be hashing this out—how to put on the armor of light—over tea when our gnarled fingers tremble to grasp our cups and our pantyhose wrinkle and sag at our ankles. But that is as it should be (well, maybe not the part about the pantyhose). We won’t, on this side, have all the answers—God forbid!
But we’ll have a pretty darn good time searching.
In the meantime, Buechner says, we are in the dark, and the dark, God knows, is also in us. We watch and wait for a holiness to heal us and hallow us, to liberate us from the dark. Advent is like the hush in a theater just before the curtain rises. It is like the hazy ring around the winter moon that means the coming of snow which will turn the night to silver. Soon…
Yours In The Wrestling,
p.s. I heard that you failed to save me any rose hips from your gathering-day at the family farm last weekend. Philip said you used them all in your Advent wreath. Well. I guess you weren’t entirely joking when you initially responded to my rose hips request: “Nah, all’s fair in love and Christmas.” I was going to bring you some of my mother’s winterberries, but I’m reconsidering.