Darkness * An Advent Reflection

Photo by Agto Nugroho on Unsplash

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, let’s continue, with a reflection from poet Moriah Conant. 

Darkness * An Advent Reflection by Moriah Conant

In my life, most waiting has involved darkness. In that period of waiting, I experience fear, pain, and sometimes even hopelessness. There is no knowing how long the darkness will last or what the outcome will be. 

I can only imagine what it felt like to wait an entire lifetime for a savior, not to mention hundreds or thousands of years as an entire people did. 

Luke’s Gospel describes an interaction that Joseph, Mary, and Jesus had with the prophet Anna at the temple in Jerusalem:

There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.                    –Luke 2:36-38

Anna waited for a lifetime to meet the tiny baby who would one day redeem Jerusalem. The people of God spent centuries of oppression under the powerful nations of the time: Egypt, Babylon, Rome. The darkness must have felt endless.

The world waits in darkness to catch a glimpse of the light we yearn to see. Every time I sat down to write this post, I began to worry that my words would be too heavy, too controversial, too political. But honestly, those words feel like accurate descriptors of life at times. 

For some, the darkness is quite literal, with the winter sun disappearing at 4:30 pm. For others, it is life’s excruciating pain—the cycles of hope and despair during struggles with infertility, the crushing weight of mental illnesses or suicidal thoughts, grief from the death of a loved one. It could be overwhelming darkness due to oppressive systems like institutionalized racism or the immigration process that strips individuals of human dignity. Maybe it’s intense loneliness, spending another holiday season without a partner or away from the people that they love. 

Like it or not, we are unable to extricate our faith from the contexts that we live in. Our tangible world and the systems it is comprised of can weigh heavy on our beliefs. But somehow, the world around seems to expect us to be continually joyful and in a celebratory mood because Christmas is coming. We are implicitly asked to ignore the heaviness in our souls. 

 Even the word darkness transported me to memories of some of the worst nights of my life. In addition to all of the analogies about mental illnesses being like darkness, my insomnia gets much worse when I go through a period of intense depression. I have spent countless nights lying awake, waiting, and hoping for sleep, or at least for morning to come quickly, tearfully begging for daylight. Darkness can overwhelm and induce despair.

The author of Psalm 102 perfectly encapsulates this feeling of waiting through the night. The Psalmist  writes:

I am like a desert owl, like an owl among the ruins.

I lie awake; I have become like a bird alone on a roof. –Psalm 102:6-7

There is a palpable feeling of loneliness and yearning that comes through the text. Owls are solitary birds, typically living and hunting alone. The desert is not an inviting environment in which to live. It can be challenging to find food and water. Sitting among the ruins adds another level of brokenness and despair.

It has been a hard year, but experiencing literal and figurative darkness doesn’t scare me as much as it used to. Talking about my pain has helped me find other people who are hurting. We have created community together in the sorrows and joys of life, and everything in between. I know that there are people who will sit in the darkness with me and not turn on a fluorescent light to try and get me into the “Christmas spirit.” I can be that person for others, too, as we wait in the darkness together for the light to come.

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Moriah Conant currently resides in Southern California where she enjoys the sunshine, drinks copious amounts of iced coffee, and hangs out with her cat.  She is pursuing a graduate degree in clinical psychology and occasionally writes in her nonexistent free time. You can read more of Moriah’s work at www.moriahconant.com

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