I love this season of Advent, and this month that brings Hanukkah and the Solstice, and their stories of oil that lasts longer than it should, and the wonder and mystery of the longest night. I love this time of waiting and getting ready. And I need its promise: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:5).
Because you know, the darkness around us is deep. That was true when the poet William Stafford wrote that line twenty years ago, and it’s certainly true these days. I guess it’s always true. There are always forces that are working against love and justice, and some days, it seems like they have the upper hand.
All month we’ve been reflecting on gratitude, and lately, given all the struggles people are facing, I’ve found myself feeling grateful, that things aren’t any worse than they are. It’s setting a low bar, I know, but these days, when it can seem like our world is going down the tubes, I’m grateful for the simple gift of a quiet day, a normal day.
Earlier this week there was a column in The New York Times by David Brooks, about the amount of suffering in our society these days. The first sentence says, “Wherever I go I seem to meet people who are either dealing with trauma or helping others dealing with trauma.”
A few days ago I was in the car, heading back to church from a meeting over in Newburyport. I was in Amesbury, about to turn up the on-ramp to 495, when the road straight ahead beckoned to me. It was a beautiful and blustery fall day—bright and sunny and very windy, with leaves blowing everywhere. And the road ahead promised winding curves past fields and farms, along stone walls and barns and out into country with wider skies and maybe a field I could walk across, even a small hill to climb in order to take in our New England landscape in these late fall days when Thanksgiving is almost here.
But that winding road I imagined, was, at least that day, a road not taken, as Robert Frost would put it. I didn’t head down that road less traveled, but it has stayed with me: that longing, to be out under the sky and in touch with the earth, to better feel the spirit of these days between autumn and winter.