Pause Here…Attend to the Symbols
By Katie Harmon-McLaughlin of Wickliffe, OH, USA
I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. —John 15:11 NRSV
It was one of those days of lingering despair and a weighted heart. Seasonal darkness encompassed me as I drove to the store in the fading light. Harsh winter winds greeted me as I opened my car door. I needed just a few items, but wandered down the aisles searching for something I could not name.
Normally, I try to avoid impulse shopping, but I left the store with two unplanned items that had caught my attention: a blanket and a candle. Arriving home, I placed the pine-scented pillar candle in a holder and lit it. I focused my attention on the flickering flame. I curled up under the blanket on the couch and spent a few moments in the silence, trying to make sense of what was stirring within me.
In those sacred moments of enclosing cold and darkness, I realized slowly that these two items were not spontaneous buys, but symbols of my soul’s deep longing. They were what I needed to get through this wintertime.
Advent is a season for mining the treasures of expectant darkness. In the Northern Hemisphere, the light itself matches the season. Each day, the minutes of darkness outnumber the minutes of light. The contrast reminds us of what we might not see in the full light of the summer sun.
We may want a quick fix or to move quickly to a season of great warmth and light, but the Spirit invites us to pause here and pay attention. What about this season signals the deeper needs of your soul? What can you learn from these deeper needs? How does this awareness form within you the promise of new life?
Sometimes practices of spirit are this simple. Wrap up in a blanket for comfort and warmth on cold days. When the uncertain darkness increases in your soul, center on Christ, and light a candle of hope. Greater light will come, but for now appreciate the light that is, even if it is rare. Find the symbols of your soul’s deep longings that you might see more clearly in the dim light of the fading sun.
Prayer for Peace
Eternal Light, help us not take your light for granted. When it is dark, and we need it most, you are there with us, waiting for the morning, waiting for the peaceful light.
Spiritual Practice: Advent—Joy
Prepare room in your heart for the Christ child. Prepare room in your heart for joy. Think of the many ways you experience joy in the Advent season: bells, candles, lights, carols, special food, gift giving, time spent with family and friends—all part of celebrating the birth of Christ. Reflect on the many ways you can share joy in the Advent season: giving to those in need, making a place for everyone at the table, greeting strangers, helping others, being a presence. Continue your own list. Thank God for the joy you experience and the opportunities to share it.
Today, God, I will wait for your gift of light and share it with joy.