Advent: Still Waiting
It is dark and rainy today, though this November has been strangely dry and sunny. While problematic for our climate, I hadn’t realized how much the extra light was a benefit while also being very confusing. We are 29 days out from the Solstice, the day with the most darkness. Cultures in the Northern hemisphere have many ways of marking the growing darkness and the slow return of light. Some celebrate by lighting bonfires and candles to coax back the sun. Other traditions, while not exclusive tied to the northern hemisphere, incorporate candles in their holidays; Hanukkah, Diwali, Kwanzaa, St. Lucia Day and for us Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas.
Each week we light another candle, growing light in some of the grayest and darkest days here. I know Advent is entirely unknown to many, or anyone who didn’t grow up in *some* church contexts. (Not all Christian churches celebrate Advent.) Guided by weekly themes of hope, peace, joy and love I find it centering and grounding in a season smothered in glitter.
Advent isn’t expected to be all tinsel and twinkly lights, at least the way I approach it. Advent accepts that its dark and cold and rainy, welcoming a season of “wintering.” I find that it leans into the Scandinavian concept of hygge. Not a flavor of candle, but a true sense of rest and comfort. My in-law’s, house is the the very embodiment of hygge. My father-in-law is second-generation Norwegian, so they come by it honesty. Their home is full of plush furniture, deep wood tones, wool rugs layered on top of each other and simple white candle sticks illuminating every room. Come to think of it, I can't think of a single overhead light in their entire house. For them is a place of comfort and sanctuary, no matter the season.
Pushing back on commercialized hygge, Scandinavian comedian Sofie Hagen says, “actual hygge can be anything from a cup of coffee on a Monday morning to going out with friends. It’s a feeling closely tied to being relaxed or chilled out. The weirdest thing is that it is suddenly for sale, hygge to me has never been something you could buy.”
In the same way, you can’t buy Advent. Sure the chocolate countdowns are great and we have lots of fun with a fabric calendar with daily things for Elli. In the most simple sense, Advent is attentiveness, presence and waiting. In a traditional Christian context, Advent is waiting for the light of Christ to arrive with the birth of Jesus on Christmas. In our context we know Jesus to be embodied love and liberation, for us Advent is waiting for the light of love and liberation in our world.
A growing light in this darkness we can all welcome.