PARE IT DOWN
Two of our featured guests for Theology Thursdays this fall have been consistently ringing in my ears. Priestess Judith Laxer and Eco-spiritualist Mary DeJong both talked, in different ways and from different perspectives, about the pervasive disconnect our culture has with the natural world. Specifically, they lifted up the fact that we are ramping up in a time when all other life on our hemisphere is gearing down. While animals and plants hibernate to conserve energy for the winter months, we humans are busier than ever.
I've been thinking about this in terms of Advent, considering the ways Christmas has become a big show, distracting us from the slow and quiet longing of the dark. These are the ideas and images that mean Advent to me, very different from the cultural “Christmas season” that seems to start earlier each year (I saw stockings for sale before Halloween this year). I recognize that this year we all might feel we “need a little Christmas right this very minute”, especially as we head into our second holiday season within a global pandemic. That feeling, though, of “needing” “right this very minute” could be more of a cause than a solution for our discomfort.
The dark and the quiet can sometimes be frightening; they can feel at times like an empty void that might swallow us into despair. Slowing down forces us to confront all the things we have been distracting ourselves from with our busyness, and often we mistakenly blame the quiet and the dark for causing these problems rather than appreciating their role in revealing them. So much of modern life feels like running away from and chasing after powerful feelings. When I think about the quiet and the dark through the lens of life and in the context of the Earth, the quiet and the dark become spaces of renewal, spaces of rest and restoration.
In Luke's rendering of the Nativity story, it is the humble and not the proud who take center stage. The women and the outcasts, the shifty shepherds and the people under the boot - they are the ones that drive this narrative. And they are the people who often don’t have the power and the resources to distract themselves from the quiet and the dark. They are the ones who have learned how to sit, how to wait, how to trust. I always find it interesting that often it is the powerful who express despair the most; the poor and downtrodden of the world are often the ones speaking hope, seeing new life, and sharing the good news of God’s love.
Perhaps the reason for this is that they have cultivated their capacity to sit in the dark. Perhaps by facing the things we are running from, the mere act of facing them makes them less powerful (see Brené Brown’s work on shame for more on this). What if, instead of following the culture of gearing up and rushing in, we followed the Earth in slowing down and settling in. This Advent, let's focus less on the doing and more on the being. Let's take more time to steady ourselves, more time to reflect, to sit quietly, to observe and receive in the dark.
In Peace and Love, Pastor Andrew