I love the idea of a dark, sacred night that Louis Armstrong sings of in “What a Wonderful World.” I feel close to God when I’m alone outside in the dark on a moonless night, and I tilt up my head and gaze into the sea of stars that are little pinpricks in a darkness that goes on for ever. It’s big, scary, beautiful, and holy. That darkness threatens to engulf me; one little human on a planet of billions in a tiny solar system within a galaxy that stretches beyond our imagination, only to be followed by another and another and another. That darkness at night has helped me come to terms with the concept of an awe-inspiring, fear-inspiring God. It is maybe closer to awe, but there is definitely a kernel of fear in me as I look up. I feel small, insignificant, helpless, and overwhelmed. And yet here I am, standing, facing it. A Holy Darkness. It’s winter in Montana so it’s dark long before your little ones are in bed. Take them outside, bundled up in pajamas and a winter coat, hold them close and tell them to look up. Now they feel the safety and security of your arms around them, and later they will dare to venture out into the night on their own, embracing the darkness, searching for the light.
And then there is the Unholy Darkness in our world that gets me curled up on the couch with a blanket over my head. The darkness that tempts me not to read the news, to live in my own little bubble and pretend it’s safe. It’s a darkness that makes me angry. So angry. And scared. Like running scared. Sometimes this darkness is in the headlines, sometimes it’s within our families, sometimes it’s in our own hearts. It’s the hatred and selfishness that so often seem to make the modern world go round. And it is so tempting – especially as Mothers – to want to run away from it, ignore it, draw our children in and protect them from that encroaching darkness. And while we certainly have a duty as mothers to protect, we have an equal duty to PREPARE, to equip our children to face the Unholy Darkness with a light that shines brightly from within.
This season of Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas, is all about that: preparation and anticipation, darkness and light. It is so rich with symbolism – especially for those of us in the North as our days shorten. It gives us pause to stop and reflect on all the darkness in our world, both holy and unholy.
I encourage you to bring the practice of Advent into your home whether you attend church or not. Chances are you’ve already filled your home with candles and warmth to stave off the winter cold and darkness. Take it a step further, make it a conscious act of preparation and reflection. Set four candles apart. Light one this week, two next Sunday, then three, then four. Turn out the lights, and sit in the darkness with your children, looking at the light. It’s getting brighter. It’s pushing back the edges of darkness and growing stronger.
Ida Fischer has been involved in MOPS for 2 years and now serves as a Discussion Group Leader. She is married to Maarten and mother to Sam (9), Noa (7), and Mylo (4). She enjoys everything outdoors, reading, and spending time alone to paint. You can find her blog and artwork at Ida Fischer Art and Illustration.
Header photo source: Ida Fischer