In our electrified world, evening comes on gently. We notice it, perhaps grumble about how early it is this time of year, but then we turn on a lamp and go on about our business. There are books to read, last-minute chores to do, TV to watch, children to tuck in or call on the phone. Inside our homes, there is usually enough light to keep the darkness out. The evening is all too obliging, often waiting at the door for hours while we pretend it isn’t there.

Then come the last moments of the day, when the clock finally reminds us that tomorrow morning is on its unrelenting way, or when we (mercifully) recognize our sleepiness and decide to follow its lead. I love those moments. The lights have been off for a while in the kitchen and dining room, and I let their darkness into the living room as well. When I turn down the thermostat for the night, it feels like tucking the house in for bed.

Then, I take Duncan out to the backyard one more time. I like to stand on the back porch, breathing in the cold air, looking at the magnificent stars. Sometimes there are ice crystals shimmering as they float past the streetlight. I can hear traffic on Highway 53 or equipment working on the north edge of the mine, but there’s a heavy quiet in the air. The darkness lays on us like a wool blanket. Sometimes I pray under my breath, and sometimes the prayer is breath itself, but this is my bedtime prayer.

I love putting the house to bed, saying goodnight to the day we’ve been given. I love the creeping darkness, the gentle fading and softening as I wait for sleep. Some nights there is too much darkness or too little sleep, and the night seems like it will drag on forever. But it never does. Morning always comes. Even as it signals the coming darkness, the evening ultimately points to the light that is yet on its way.

That’s how Advent is. We (in the global North, at least) honor the fading light with candles that only just hold the darkness at bay. We meditate on the divine wisdom of allowing long, cold nights to give rest and renewal to a world that is powered by warmth and sunshine. We trust in the sure knowledge that, however deep the shadows, the Light will yet be revealed, and it will shine all the brighter because we’ve journeyed through the darkness to find it.

We must journey through the darkness. The fading seasons of life, the shadows of illness and death, the unknown clouds of our deepest needs and desires. God invites us to acknowledge them, even befriend them, so they can reveal their deep mysteries to us. They reveal the deepest Mystery of all: a Love that is born in human life, that is raised again from the waste of human death, that endures forever in the unceasing joy of God’s presence.

Light and peace to you,