Our “falls” to bring us Advent

December 7, 2017

Advent is the first month of the Christian calendar and the season we have entered. I confessed recently at church that I was unprepared for Advent and its cultural trappings…lights, decorations, Christmas cards, gifts, gatherings. In fact, I was loathing it! But, thankfully, I am neither unprepared for or unwelcoming of this season of Christ’s “coming”. I desire it very much. It’s the other stuff I wanted to jettison.

So what should we be mindful of in this season? Of Advent, and its precursor, fall?

You might need the reminder, as I did, that as children of God our seasons are filled with divine purpose, especially when the outlook is bleak. Tracey and I have come to expect that every fall we will navigate the doldrums. Perhaps it is my internal clock, or spiritual warfare surrounding Halloween, or the nature of fall itself, but my doldrums ALWAYS happen in the fall, never in spring. They can either defeat me in 100 different ways or I can embrace them for lessons they teach.

Parker Palmer writes,
“Autumn is a season of great beauty, but it is also a season of decline: the days grow shorter, the light is suffused, and summer’s abundance decays toward winter’s death. Faced with this inevitable winter, what does nature do in autumn? It scatters the seeds that will bring new growth in the spring—and scatters them with amazing abandon…

“In my own experience of autumn, I am rarely aware that seeds are being planted. Instead, my mind is on the fact that the green growth of summer is browning and beginning to die. my delight in the autumn colors is always tinged with melancholy, a sense of impending loss that is only heightened by the beauty all around. I am drawn down by the prospect of death more than I am lifted by the hope of new life…

“But as I explore autumn’s paradox of dying and seeding, I feel the power of metaphor. In the autumnal events of my own experience, I am easily fitted on surface appearances—on the decline of meaning, the decay of relationships, the death of a work. And yet if I look more deeply, I may see the myriad possibilities being planted to bear fruit in some season yet to come…

“In retrospect, I can see in my own life what I could not see at the time—how the job I lost helped me find work I needed to do, how the ‘road closed’ signed turned me toward terrain I needed to travel, how losses that felt irredeemable forced me to discern meanings I needed to know. On the surface, it seemed that life was lessening, but silently and lavishly the seeds of new life were always being sown…

“This hopeful notion that living is hidden with dying is surely enhanced by the visual glories of autumn. What artist would ever have painted a season of dying with such a vivid palette if nature had not done it first? Does death possess a beauty that we—who fear death, who find it ugly and obscene—cannot see? How shall we understand autumn’s testimony that death and elegance go hand in hand?

“Autumn constantly reminds me that my daily dyings are necessary precursors to new life. If I try to ‘make’ a life that defies the diminishments of autumn, the life I end up with will be artificial, at best, and utterly colorless as well. But when I yield to the endless interplay of living and dying, dying and living, the life I am given will be real and colorful, fruitful and whole.” (Palmer, Let Your Life Speak, p. 79)

Can you recognize “living hidden with dying”? The “falls” that bring you to Advent?  And embrace them as necessary? I am learning that my fall doldrums are the natural progression of life’s seasons. We all must go through the fall to harvest the fruits of spring. The more we fix our eyes on Jesus and embrace the pain, disappointments, failures, closures, etc. with faith in God’s purpose and plan, the more lasting the spiritual fruits will be. So live into this season and look ahead.

Jesus is coming.

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