Growing up, my sisters and I were always afraid of the dark, and as little girls, we would never go to bed without turning on some sort of night light. We always needed a glowing certainty that all was well and all was safe. It’s funny how much safety and security a small flickering light can provide.
The dark days of December are upon us, and Holy Mother Church invites us to press into the Advent darkness. While most of us will be tempted to fast forward to the Christmas light, the Church invites us to pause, to wait in darkness, and enter into the Advent school of surrender.
It is necessary to sit in the school of Advent so that we can learn that in our darkest hour it is safe to trust and that perhaps, it is in our darkest hour, that it is safest to trust. Advent reveals to us the heart of a father who never abandons us and who presses into our darkness and says, “All is well, all is safe, I have a plan.”
The Advent mystery teaches us that we never have to be afraid of the dark because it is in darkness that heroic faith is born, and it is in the darkness of night that the Christ child comes and reveals to us the tenderness of God. As we gently press the Christ Child to our heart in the stillness of the night, we learn that some of our most intimate and tender moments with God can only happen in the dark.
The season of Advent reminds us that we are not orphans and that each time we cry, “Maranatha, come Lord Jesus,” He always, and without fail, comes. And not only does he come, he stays. Jesus, “Emmanuel,” is truly with us, always with us, and we need only to look at the glowing sanctuary candle to remind us that this is true. (A small flickering light really does offer safety and security!)
The Advent story teaches us that just as Jesus was fully present in and to Mary as she and Joseph made the dangerous trek to Bethlehem, he will always be fully present to us in the midst of our uncertainties and doubts. While Mary and Joseph journeyed to behold the Face of the Son, he was already present to them, shrouded in mystery, resting securely on the heart of his mother.
Yes, it is necessary to sit in the school of Advent, because many of us will experience “personal Advents” of waiting, darkness and longing in the year to come.
We experience the waiting of the Advent mystery every time it feels like we are left waiting with unanswered prayers. We experience the winter darkness of Advent when we wonder if God still hears us or if he has a plan our life. We will experience the Advent longing when we taste our own sinfulness and need for a savior.
But the story of Christmas reminds us that God is faithful and that light will always triumph over darkness. Not only does God “come through” for us, but paragraph 422 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that by sending his own beloved son, God acted far beyond all expectation.
Each time we behold Jesus in the manger, we are reminded that God has a plan, that God can be trusted and that through Jesus, “Emmanuel,” God is always with us.
When the darkness, waiting and longing of Advent takes place, let’s remember the miracle of Christmas and entrust ourselves to the God who, in the fullness of time, will act far beyond all our expectation.
KRISTIN MOLITOR serves as New Evangelization Coordinator for the Catholic communities of Bowlus, Holdingford and St. Anna.