It's easy to forget that this of time year is perhaps the most difficult for many people, especially for those who are alone, in trouble, or in anxious circumstances. Let those of us blessed with home and hearth, good health, adequate wealth and the treasure above all treasures, faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, not forget those in need and reach out to them as He undoubtedly would have us do. It's important, too, not forget our own neediness, our own longing, our own fears and anxieties.
Yesterday I drove home from work "amid the encircling gloom." It was getting to be dusk and a storm had blown in, turning the skies a lusterless shade of gray, making everything look lifeless and dull. I was so happy to walk into my well-lit house, to see my family, to be where in a loving, hospitable place. In the immortal words of Dorothy of Kansas, "There's no place like home." This sentence strikes me as a fitting motto for Advent.
Two years ago my bishop issued his first and, to date, only Pastoral Letter to our local Church. It garnered quite a bit of national attention at the time. His letter, "Waiting in Joyful Hope!" includes this set of reflections:
In the late autumn of the year, as the world darkens, the Church is called to gather and quietly wait in hope for the coming of Christ, her bridegroom, the Light of the World. I am reminded of a song by Marty Haugen: "For you, 0 Lord, my soul in stillness waits, truly my hope is in you."! Is our hope really in Christ? Have we really allowed ourselves to wait in silence and ponder the great mystery of salvation? Have we been changed by our reflection on this mystery so that we live differently as our relationship with the risen Christ deepens? In the darkness, we watch for the coming Lord. We must not let our busyness distract us from that, lest we be caught unawares like the foolish virgins in Matthew's Gospel", The season calls us to be attentive to our preparations for the final day and attentive to the quality of our life in union with Christ.Already having cited John Henry Newman's 1833 poem Lead Kindly Light, citing the entire first stanza seems a fitting way to beckon this season of holy waiting, this season in which we undertake to fully engage the strangeness of living between the already and the not yet...
LEAD, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home—
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene—one step enough for me...
I encourage you to look further into the circumstances under which this poem was written (it was written at sea while Newman was voyaging home to England from being abroad longer than he intended when he left his home).
I also encourage you to read Max Lindeman's post, Avoiding the Advent Trap, which is the best article I have read on Advent in recent memory.