Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

How many times do I say this time of year, "Man, I hate going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark?" This time of the year, even in the middle of the country, it's just too dark too soon. (Good thing I don't live in North Dakota or Alaska, hmmm?) My little dashboard widget on my computer that shows dawn, sunrise, sunset, and dusk has more than half of the little pie graph in dark blue. There's that hedginess that comes over me about feeding the long-eared equines in the dark. (I hate it. Mostly because when you are dealing with hooved animals that weigh up to a thousand pounds, you just don't like to be throwing hay to them in the dark. They are not crazy about a flashlight, and they spook more easily. You just don't like being in a position where they could put a hoof in your noggin and you'd never know what hit you.)

I'll tell you something I notice about dusk during Advent time that is unlike dusk the rest of the year. Because it is happening during the shortest days of the year, your biological rhythms are just not ready for the dark. You still have energy and things you need to do. It's not like when dark comes in the summer, when your mind and body are slowing down for the day and the dark is a welcome friend, where the dark brings the cool evening, and a sense of relief. Advent time darkness brings a darkness that is cold, forboding, and with a sense it can consume you. Your mind is saying, "No, wait! I still have stuff to do, I am NOT ready for this. I am not prepared for this."

In an essay about life's end, A.T. Still, the founder of osteopathic medicine, referred to that gripping sense of darkness as "the wolf of dread." I was so very struck by that term the first time I heard it. It is "the wolf of dread" that grips your chest when you lie in bed at night and think, "Maybe this is all there is. Maybe we die and that's it." For me, the darkness at Advent time is best thought of in terms of that "wolf of dread."

I was thinking about that during Wallace's sermon today. The Gospel was Luke 3:7-18, where John the Baptist was telling people to repent because the Messiah was coming. We are only a week from Christmas Eve and unlike a lot of things where the closer you get to it you see the light at the end of the tunnel, I find myself filled with more and more of "the wolf of dread" right up to Christmas Eve, and never seem to mentally see "light" until I actually wake up and it is Christmas Day. It's odd, but it makes sense. Right up till Christ's birth, Mary and Joseph were scrambling around at night, hoping for something, ANYTHING to pop up where they could hang their hats for the night. I imagine poor Mary was probably in the first stage of labor and didn't want to get Joseph any more stressed. In their lives, that night, the "wolf of dread" must have looked pretty fierce.

What I have tried to do as the years roll by is to have the courage during Advent to let the darkness swallow me, to stand there and let it roll right over me and for me to crawl into it in my contemplative prayer time. It sounds odd, but I am trying really hard to connect with that pain, to connect with that feeling of "the wolf of dread" so I can better understand the magnitude of the light that Christ's birth brought to the world.

Dear Lord, as darkness and sadness closes in on us during these Advent nights, teach us rather than to resist the cold and the darkness and the emptiness to instead allow it to settle upon us. Give us the courage to allow our souls to be swallowed by it, much as how Jonah was swallowed by the great fish, and to spit us out with a new understanding of that darkness. Teach us the value of Christ's light that He brought to the world and the power of his saving grace. Amen.



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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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