A voice in the wilderness: All too bright
Advent is my favorite liturgical season, not as an expansion of Christmas, but as a time during which the church honors those seasons of our lives when God seems far off and silent, and gives a symbol to our longing for a communion that is yet unrealized. I relish the quiet, dark season as I anticipate God among us and with us, as one of the most vulnerable; it ministers to my melancholy tendencies. The wilderness of Advent for me is typically spiritual and existential, and I associate Advent with a few lit candles in a dark and quiet room. The wilderness is barren and solitary, like the desert of John the Baptist, that lone voice calling in the wilderness, “make straight the path for the Lord.”
Instead my wilderness this Advent is all loud chaos and too much brightness — the sort that drives my sensory-sensitive children to cover their ears and bury their faces. My Advent season is crowded with demands and the blaring events in our world. It is not the lonely desert I imagine of John’s terrain. It is not a cold and dark night. It is hundreds of emails flooding my inboxes that I can never quite get sorted, stacks of mixed papers across the surface of my desk, and spatterings of crayons and paper cuttings on my carpet at home. My wilderness is a mountain of bins of children’s clothes to be sorted and exchanged as the weather changes. It’s mental lists of calls to return, bills to pay, and items forgotten at the grocery store. The pace of the weeks, the regenerating lists, the urgent needs and requests from my children and my students. My wilderness is a frantic spin, all too bright and loud and crowded.
Usually my Advent is a loneliness, anticipating the coming of God and a hope in the darkness for the light that is to come. This Advent my waiting and longing is for the dark and rural hillside, the solitary night and starry sky, and the voice that declares: Peace. Peace on Earth.
Lisa Powell is a theology professor at St. Ambrose University. She and her husband John have a daughter in kindergarten and a son at St. Paul Preschool.