Saturday, December 22, 2007

Solstice -- Advent -- the promise of light


Yesterday those of us in the Northern Hemisphere passed that wonderful moment when the days once again start to get longer. Thank goodness for more light! I hate getting up between 6 and 6:30 am in pitch dark. I hate finishing runs in gathering dusk at 5 pm. More light please! (And condolences to my friends in the South; the inversion of the seasons tied to a Northern hemisphere calendar creates what seem to Northerners incongruities: when we spent a season in Cape Town, friends regaled us with tales of going to the beach for New Years.)

In the Christian year, we're completing the season of Advent, the season of yearning for the Light personified, incarnated, by the Christ child.

The "Christmas season" -- the annual consumption orgy during which we are urged to root for healthy sales records -- teases that yearning, most unsatisfactorily.

The longer I live, the more I believe we humans are creatures that carry within us a yearning for something greater than our personal ease and comfort.

San Francisco Chronicle columnist Jon Carroll, while insisting on his disbelief in all religion, describes the sensation the season can awaken, if we attend to it.

I think it has to do with yearning and loss and beauty and hope. ... And the beauty makes us cry, which is as it should be.

A couple of weeks ago in the Episcopal church where I worship we sang Psalm 72 in a version that I think comes from the New Zealand Prayer Book. Verse 3 perfectly captures that seasonal yearning as I feel it, imploring

Let the mountains bring forth peace for the people;
and the hills prosperity with justice.

That's the yearning the lives in me, surfacing more consciously each year as we wait for the light. The harsh and beautiful mountain in Lebanon pictured at the head of this post is perhaps one of the scenes the psalmist had in mind when writing the petition.

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