The night is as bright as the day; for darkness is as light to You.
Click here to download this year’s Alternative Advent and Christmas Calendar here . (I think it’s #25!). Print it on pretty paper if you have any (I love gold vellum), stick it on your fridge, and give yourself and anyone you live with an EASY way to kindle a Christmas spirit every day, from the First Sunday in Advent through Epiphany.
I’m borrowing from the UCC Stillspeaking Daily Devotionals for which I write, because I love the theme so much: GLOW. The lambent Vince Amlin wrote these words for the introduction of our beautiful little devotional book (print copies sold out, but you can buy the digital download for 3 bucks!):
“Last Christmas in Seville, I was introduced to Nuestra Señora de la O, Our Lady of the O. Hers is the Feast of the Expectation, December 18th. She got her name because, in some religious communities, after vespers that night, a long, loud “O” would arise from the choir. A vocalization of creation’s yearning to be made whole
I like to think that this year’s Stillspeaking Advent Devotional, Glow, is spelled with that “O.”
Like Isaiah, the glow we’re thinking of arrives from above and below. It is the dawning of earth-shaking liberation, which we expect to break through the clouds at any moment. And the throbbing embers of a watchfire beside which the faithful have warmed themselves for generations.
It is light and heat. The glory of the Lord that shone round about them. And the flush of a pregnant body coursing with 50% more blood than usual.
It is the beauty of candlelit faces singing “Silent Night.” And the roiling of protesters turning up the heat on the latest Herod.
It is spelled with the “O” in “O Come, All Ye Faithful” and the ones in “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” It is a call to gather round, to come in out of the cold. To watch and wait. The glow of lamps trimmed and burning.
It is the angelic glow-up those dusty shepherd faces receive, reflecting the splendor swaddled at the center of their circle.
It is spelled with the “O” their lips form as they gasp, finally grasping the meaning of all this light and heat: that everything has changed.”
In one of the devos within, the luminous Quinn Caldwell (aka my congregation’s favorite devotional writer ;) teaches us about the ancient practice of smooring the hearth. “Smooring a fire means covering it with ashes before bed. This keeps the embers burning gently all night; the fire can be easily resurrected with a few breaths and a little fuel in the morning. A smoored fire doesn’t burn bright; it just sort of glows a little. It doesn’t light the room and boil the water and keep everybody warm. But it’s not dead, either. It’s just waiting, letting you rest without worry until you have the oomph to tend it.”
Are you feeling a little buried by this year, Beloved? You maybe thought your soul had gone dim. Your light not just hiding under a bushel, but snuffed out entirely.
You were wrong: it is just SMOORED. Banked against the night and the elements, waiting to be restored to crackling power when morning comes, when your oomph returns, when God the holy Tender breathes on you in just the right way.
I’m taking the Glow theme for this year’s calendar and giving it a little kickline. This Advent & Christmas, I invite you to glow in the dark, under the ashes–not by trying with all your might to shine brightly, but rather the opposite. Turn down the lights. Go deeper within. Let your eyes adjust to the darkness.
The thing about glowing is: you can only see it in low light or even complete darkness. You can only feel it when things are quiet, as they are during the insomniac’s 3am sojourn with God.
We often use light and dark terminology as a stand-in for good and evil, which is, well, racist, and also wrong. Good things happen in the dark: intimacy, and growth of all kinds. Think of the mycelial network under the forest floor, disseminating information and sustenance in the dark.
Night, or the absence of light, can be scary and disorienting. We can’t get our bearings, we are ignorant and deprived of an important sense. “In the dark” is a metaphor for cluelessness. But it’s also where life begins, and can begin again. That first little spark, that banked ember flashing into fire again.
So this season, don’t deny the darkness. Enter it more fully. It will not claim you or maim you. Once there, use all your senses to look for what and who is still aglow, lit from within, not a dying ember but a secret glow that can’t be snuffed, biding its time, waiting for the right moment to return to fullest power.
Rest in that stable place, keeping company with the Holy Family by night, dim except for the light that seems to come from mother and child themselves. Let it set you afire from within, as well, to know that in spite of all, God keeps choosing to dwell with us.
* Molly *
Friends, Family, Colleagues & Readers I just haven’t met yet.