It is that time of the year when the cold and snow keeps us inside, when the darkness closes in by the time we are sitting down to dinner. It is the time of year that can be difficult for many because it seems as if, even when the sun is shining, we are in a season of little light.
We are also in the season of the church called Advent. The word "Advent" (from the Latin "Adventus") can have three related meanings. It can mean "arrival," it can mean "presence," and it can mean "coming, on the way." For Christians, the liturgical season of Advent means all three. We are preparing for the birth of Jesus who brought the light of hope and joy into our dark, struggling world.
It is also a good time to reflect on Mary, the mother of Jesus. She was a young girl whose life path was already set before her. She was engaged to marry Joseph. She would be a wife and a mother. Then one night, she experienced a vision of the angel Gabriel, who told her that her life would take a very different path, a path that, even as the mother of the Messiah, would be fraught with heartache.
This message, which was one of joy, also brought difficulty into Mary's life: she was pregnant out of wedlock. At first, Joseph considering ending their engagement. She must have been ostracized by others because of her pregnancy. Mary endured a trip to Bethlehem well along in her pregnancy, and ended up giving birth in a dark cave among animals. She must have been exhausted and scared. She must have been thinking, "What now?" Things must have seemed very dark indeed.
I'm sharing with you today a poem I wrote titled "What Now?" I wrote it after reflecting on what Mary might have been feeling like after all these things had happened to her, and her future seemed confused and dim.
It has come true.
The baby has come.
In the blur of traveling,
seeking a place to stay,
the pain of labor,
the child has come.
The noise in the streets seems distant.
the soft bleating of the sheep
soothes my anxiety and exhaustion.
The child sleeps peacefully but I cannot.
I struggle to remember the angel's words
of prophecy about the coming of the Son of God.
Joseph comforts me,
wraps a blanket around me,
and we are both silent
as we look upon the face of our son,
yet truly God's son.
The days ahead are uncertain.
What path will our son's life take?
How can we best guide him?
There is only one thing:
Trusting God to show us the way,
knowing that God's plan is the perfect plan.
Know with certainty that we are not alone
on the journey we will travel.
Emmanuel. God with us.
The light of the world!
At Westminster Presbyterian Church, we light a candle in an Advent wreath each Sunday. The candles represent things such as hope, love, joy, and peace. Each time we light a candle, we add a little more brightness, a little more joy, a little more hope to our Advent journey. On Christmas Eve, when we pass the light from our lit candle to the unlit candle of the person next to us, we are offering each other the promise that we never walk alone in the darkness of our world. We are walking with God and with one another.
Where can you find light in your world this season of Advent and throughout the year? In the love of family? Spending time chatting with friends over a cup of coffee? Walking through the park after a fresh snow fall? In writing, music, art? In serving others by volunteering? In a faith community that guides you on a journey of spiritual growth? God is present in all of these things.
Where will you find light this Advent and Christmas season, a season that celebrates a great love that entered our world through Jesus, the incarnation of God among us?
Even the smallest of lights brings us the assurance that Emmanuel - God with us - is with us always.
Shelley Pantoliano, a retired pastor, is a member of Westminster Presbyterian Church. She is married and has 2 children and 3 grandchildren. She enjoys writing poetry, playing the piano, and reading.