This Advent I’m delighted to bring you a variety of voices – authors, pastors, theologians, and philosophers – each of whom has a unique and beautiful take on a particular passage of Scripture related to the Advent season.
My prayer is that these reflections would help guide your devotional life as you participate in this season of holy waiting.
Without further ado, here’s today’s reflection from author Kristen Leigh Kludt.
Cold * An Advent Reflection by Kristen Kludt
Today began in the dark. The air was crisp and cold, the earth having released the heat it gathered from yesterday’s sun in the course of the night. The sky was black, studded with stars. Not much could be seen in the blackness, just the shapes and outlines of things.
And then black turned to deep rose, to orange, to gold. Shadows began to distinguish themselves as trees and buildings. Birds woke and began their song. Dawn broke. The sun began again to warm this part of earth, bringing us into day.
Now the sun is warm and bright, and the world is bustling with life. Families and friends and strangers are all out in the world, going about the tasks of life and love, work and play.
Hours from now the bustle will begin to slow. Families will gather for a meal, ending their work and play. The sun will dip low, painting all beneath in rose and orange and gold. Dusk.
And we will descend again into night.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens –Ecclesiastes 3:1
God made the world to change. These rhythms of each day reflect also the seasons of the year. Spring, like dawn, awakes new life. Summer is a time of fullness, bounty. Fall, like dusk, is a time of settling, of release. Winter, like night, is a time of stillness, waiting.
This cycle of the seasons is written into the pattern of creation, yet we expect humans to be different. We think that our life and work should grow and grow! If there is a dip in energy or passion, then something is wrong. If we feel tired and need to rest, then we are burned out or not good enough. We have forgotten our need for winter’s rest.
These seasons that God has woven into the fabric of the universe extend to us, too. We have just built enough technology to pretend they don’t.
Right now, it’s autumn. The temperature is dropping. The trees are pulling all the essentials back into their trunks and roots. Their leaves will fade and fall. Animals are eating all they can, gathering food for winter, preparing to rest. True rest takes preparation and forethought.
Winter is one of my favorite seasons. I grew up camping with my dad in sub-zero temperatures. Cold was not something to be feared, but something to be respected. We had to be aware of it, to prepare for it, and then we could enjoy its sparkling gifts: the quiet emptiness of the winter woods, the freshness of the crisp air, the lovely contrast of a hot bowl of soup on a cold night. At home, we kept our house cold—down to 45 degrees at night—and I woke under piled blankets to frost painting my window with lace. Life moved at a slower pace in winter, because of the cold and the dark.
Winter is an invitation to rest. All that is unnecessary falls away; the bones of things are revealed. It is fallow time, necessary time. New life can never be born without winter’s rest. We can learn much from what animals do in winter: burrowing into their dens, slowing their heartbeats, living on less. Some mammals hibernate pregnant, literally growing new life in their wombs as they sleep.
In one particularly hard winter season of my life, I wrote this poem:
I AM WINTER
I am winter.
I am the bare, black trees
sharp against the softness of the blue-gray sky.
I am the silent snow.
Cross my white fields,
smell the biting air, the wool of your scarf, wet with your breath,
as you carefully step across my icy river,
tumbling softly over stones, under snow.
Smell the smoke from my chimney—I invite you in.
Stomp your boots on my front porch;
shed your frosty layers in my entryway.
Do you hear the teapot sing? It sings for you.
Dry your socks at the fire in my living room;
until the stars fall from their inky chambers,
you never have to leave.
I had finally realized God was there with me, just as present in that cold season as in any other.
Winter invites me to experience God’s love in a different way. Winter offers the invitation to be still.
An invitation to practice:
Remember winter as a child. Make a list of the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures of the winter season. Perhaps turn your list into a poem. Consider: As fall gives way to winter, how might I let go and learn to rest in God’s love for me? What might it look like to embrace the cold and the darkness? As I surrender to winter, what new life might germinate?
Kristen Leigh Kludt is a writer, speaker, and contemplative adventurer. Creator of Field Guides for the Way and author of A Good Way Through, Kristen is a gifted story-teller and teacher. She is growing daily toward a life of integrity and love and invites others to do the same. She lives, works, and plays in San Francisco’s East Bay with her husband and two young sons.