December 2022: Advent
I had it in mind that I would post a journal entry from early December; but after typing it up, it is more of a rant triggered by a text than it is blog-worthy reflective writing. While I think the content is of benefit to others, it is a bit heavy and needs more finessing. At any rate, it will be a chapter in my book—some day. The topic was the “misuse” of prayer and faith, if you’re curious. It is also not where my head is at today.
My reflections lately have been in the context of the four themes of Advent: Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. I have been searching out articles and meditations to create an “Advent notebook” that I can refer to year after year. I began this project last year, but it fell by the wayside as these things usually do. I picked it up again well into this Advent season. It seems to have snuck up on me, somehow. Maybe next year I will have my ducks in the proverbial row to have a mindful Advent practice.
On my spiritual journey, like many others, I am easily triggered this time of year with expectations and misguided, yet well-intentioned, expressions and traditions. My quest for reflective materials, therefore, were not “Christmassy” per se or even religious. But I do appreciate the tradition of Advent and taking time out each week for reflection on a theme.
I grew up with an Advent log with five candles (typically Advent wreaths or logs hold four candles representing the four Sundays before Christmas Day, but ours included a Christmas Day candle). Each Sunday a new candle was lit, and if not the first Sunday, the previous candles were lit as well. Christmas day, all five candles were lit. However, that is where the tradition began and ended. We did not have any liturgical reference to the meaning of each candle.
Much later in life, after continuing the Advent candle practice every Christmas season as an adult, I learned of the significance of each candle. Some years, I even incorporated the themes into my blog entries. Only recently have I made an effort to reflect upon the themes more mindfully and purposefully. However, I do not limit myself to an ecumenical framework, rather embracing the true “reason for the season”—winter solstice—which the Catholic Church appropriated in order to provide parishioners with an alternative to pagan or secular celebrations.
The reason for this holiday season, regardless of your worldview or religious leaning, remains the same: celebration of light—a way to mark the shift from darkness to light. The shortest day being around December 21st. So my personal celebrations include reflecting upon the themes of Advent in this broader context. Each Sunday, the days gets a little shorter. Even more noticeable now as the Christmas tree lights could go on earlier, but I am too lazy to adjust the timer. I notice the absence of light and appreciate the diversion of the holiday season—the season that marks a turning point. I think the winter would be harder to bear without this celebration of light.
Being who I am, a deep thinker and feeler, it is not enough to embrace this season at its most shallow. It has to be meaningful for me. And I have found doing so mindfully with purpose has been therapeutic. Now that I have my notebook (mostly) assembled, I am already looking forward to next year. A yearly reminder of what Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love mean to me—which in counselling parlance is akin to maintaining therapeutic gains—reminding me of how far I have come while acknowledging the journey does not have an end point.
Dictionary.com defines advent as “a coming into place, view, or being; arrival.” I think that perfectly describes the essence of this season. It is a coming into place marked by various festivities. We arrive at the turning point: the days start getting longer as we look towards the lightness of spring. And for me, it is an arrival point of personal reflection.
What are your favourite aspects of this season celebrating the transition from darkness to light? What makes it meaningful for you? What would you like to add or subtract to make it more meaningful? How ever you celebrate (even if you choose not to), I wish everyone a Wonder-full “seasonal transition” filled with Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.