Advent 1: Awake! Die!
This morning my inbox offers me two seemingly conflicting Advent meditations. The first, taken from the Psalm 57, encourages me to “Awake and sing.” The second, to prepare for a good death.
How can these two concepts coexist on the first day of Advent?
Once when I was young, my parents hauled the four of us children to a resort in the Adirondacks. It was a beautiful spot and we exhausted ourselves the first day exploring the lake, canoeing, playing tennis, and stuffing ourselves with blueberries.
We fell into bed in the cabin that night, spent and ready for deep slumber. I shared a double bed with my younger sister, a night-time dervish. Near dawn, not nearly rested enough, I was violently jolted from a dream when her arm came sailing full force across her body and onto my face.
Waking is painful, more often than not. All over the world as I write this, people are being pulled from safety out of cars to be shot, women sexually assaulted, people evicted from their homes into the winter cold.
Power wields its unconscious arrogance like a modern-day Grendel, devouring the best among us.
Hunkered down in heated homes, with candles and wreaths to light, is a rare privilege. And the truth is, even with these privileges the pain of awakening is as life-changing among us as it is elsewhere, even if we succeed in keeping it out of the news.
The Buddhist teacher famously whacks his pupil with a stick of wood during his meditation.
A poor Jewish girl finds herself pregnant by a man not her betrothed.
This waking is a kind of death. The death of security, conformity, and ease.
It comes to us all.
We wake, and have a choice.
Will we resist that with which our rude awakenings confront us? Will we wallow in self-pity and narcissism self-absorption? Or will we take one step after another, bracing ourselves to face into darkness, determined to bring our best to bear against what would defeat us? To heal and to bring the light of our new strengths back to the world that needs us?
My prayer is that we come to share the journeys through the dark, and as we do, discover the wisdom and power and honesty that is in us, waiting to be revealed.