I love Advent, the nighttime darkness and the quiet. I love how, in the heart of winter, the natural world proclaims the waiting, the promise and the hope of the presence of God. I love the blessings of Advent faith.
In Italy, where we lived for seven years, I especially valued the Advent season. The streets of Florence were largely empty of crowds — no Christmas shopping frenzy there! Often white lights were strung across the streets, giving light in the darkness for the holiday. Church bells echoed. Shepherds from the hills came into the city and played phrases of Italian carols on their bagpipes, celebrating the promise of Christmas in the quiet of the evenings.
Now, here back in North East, amid our frenetic and hyped pre-Christmas hysteria, I long for the quiet and darkness of Advent in Italy. Nevertheless, I still try to observe Advent quiet by stopping, looking, listening. I still find hope and joy in the waiting and expectation of Advent in the midst of the winter darkness, pre-Christmas busyness and the chaos of our world.
Advent lets me hear Mary’s song: My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. The voices of ancient prophets still echo in my heart: Comfort, O comfort my people says our God.… the glory of the Lord shall be revealed.
I try not to get distracted by fear but to work for healing and peace instead. I remember that we live to do good, not feel good. This is why I love Advent. This dark and luminous time tells us of coming and not yet, of waiting and hoping. Advent calls us to live and act in faith and celebrate God’s coming to us and presence with us, known to us by hope, by love.
Fr. Sam Hartman