SARAH SHERRY: An Advent Reflection
November 25, 2020 at 11:45 PM
I am one of those people who likes patterns.
I like the weekly rhythms of my life when I’m home in Tacoma, the cycle of a 16-week semester, the predictability of changing seasons, and the shared stages of human development. Sure, there is always danger of falling into a “rut” or failing to notice important exceptions, but more often than not, I find that patterns provide a framework within which I’m better able to function and to understand processes. They help to hold me. They remind me of what day of the week it is; they propel me to exercise and to get to work on time.
More substantively, they have carried me through times of adjustments to new jobs or parenthood as I am reassured that my reactions are part of a typical cycle; they have sustained me in times of grief as I am told that such feelings are part of a common human process in response to loss. When they are truly useful patterns, they also remind me to attend to something I might have forgotten or wanted to ignore.
The season of Advent is like that for me. Each year, it begins in darkness; over the weeks, hope and expectation build out of which something new emerges. It is a cycle that I’ve seen mirrored in many experiences. It is also a cycle that invites me to live into the darkness for a period of time – something I might otherwise ignore, but have come to appreciate. For new life to be realized, these other stages seem to be a necessary part of that cycle.
During the four weeks of Advent, there is an invitation to think about and participate in the expression of this cycle through the use of a pregnancy metaphor: darkness in the womb; gestation and change; turning and fear; birth. Although this metaphor may be more accessible to some than to others, I think it offers ways to be curious and engage with this pattern from darkness to birth in many ways.
- How do I react to being in the dark? What types of darkness do I experience? How can darkness be nourishing?
- What am I even preparing for? What type of growth do I need to experience in order to be ready?
- What stands in the way of my preparations? How does fear of what might come stand in the way of my being truly ready for something new?
- What is this new thing that is being birthed? How will I regard it and support it?
For me, these questions apply to this Advent season whether I think about them through the metaphor of pregnancy or the very present issues of climate change, racism, our country’s political chaos, or the raging COVID pandemic. Such enormous problems where I often feel hopeless seem to be directly at odds with Advent’s hopeful call. And yet, I believe in this pattern – that by engaging in this cycle of questioning and reflection, I can be held and sustained as new ways are birthed.
Sarah Sherry is a Community Life Floater at Holden Village.