catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 9, Num 23 :: 2010.12.17 — 2010.12.30


Embracing the darkness

Jesus.  Angels in the heavens.  Shepherds rushing to the stable.  Gifts, to be given and received.  There is a lot on our minds during these weeks approaching Christmas.  However, Advent is also a fitting time to reflect on how we respond to and can best live in light of the incarnation.  During the past few years, Advent has been a time when I reread many of the incarnational passages that have stuck with me over the years, including many penned by Madeleine L’Engle. 

In The Irrational Season, L’Engle muses her way through the liturgical calendar, fittingly beginning and ending the book with Advent.  Her first time through Advent, she questions the situation of things on earth — did God really become incarnate so that humans could create battlefields, slums and insane asylums?  There must have been an easier way, she says.

It is at the end of the book, with her second reflection Advent, that L’Engle approaches the relationship between Jesus and ourselves.  She writes,

Who is this King of glory?  A child born of a woman.  A man betrayed by his friends as well as by his enemies.  A failure who died ignominiously and who should by all logic have been immediately forgotten.  A king of no glory on earth, a king who lost his battle with the Powers of this world, or so it would seem from the surface of the story.  He performed a few miracles, but miracles were nothing new; others performed miracles.  And he couldn’t save himself at the end.

While this passage is eloquent, it is not necessarily particularly groundbreaking Christology.  What she follows this passage with, however, is an unusual approach to Advent.   She pleads with herself to hold onto Jesus’ demonstration of weakness, to not stray from the King of glory’s original vision, to seek for the right questions to ask, and to not fear or deny the darkness within herself.

There is no denying that Advent is a dark time.  For most of us, we’re experiencing the shortest days of the year.  We’re waiting — waiting for increasing light, and also to celebrate the moment that changed everything.  But in the midst of this, we cannot ignore our own darkness and brokenness.  L’Engle writes, “When we deny our wholeness, when we repress part of ourselves, when we are afraid of our own darkness, then the dark turns against us, turns on us, becomes evil.”   Through the ritual of waiting, we must embrace our whole selves, and then the incarnation can change everything, all over again, every year.

This, too, is a part of what we are meant to be, writes L’Engle.  Advent is a time to wait for faith; to slowly rediscover it; to be again assured of its presence, no matter how weak or strong it may be.  Somehow, it becomes a time to find ourselves, and all of the parts of ourselves that we usually try to ignore, and to bring them all with us to the manger.  As I sit and wait in the darkness this Advent, it is comforting to be reminded by L’Engle that everything does not always need to make sense.  After all,

This is the irrational season
When love blooms bright and wild
If Mary had been filled with reason
There’d be no room for the child.

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