It seems like my Advent is more Lent this year. I'm not feeling the joyful anticipation, laced with humble resignation of sinfulness, that Advent is supposed to signify. Instead, I'm feeling a bit.....hmmmm....penitential. Is there a word for when penance is thrust upon you? Perhaps Shakespeare knew something of that:
O! for my sake do you with Fortune chide,
The guilty goddess of my harmful deeds,
That did not better for my life provide
Than public means which public manners breeds.
Thence comes it that my name receives a brand,
And almost thence my nature is subdued
To what it works in, like the dyer's hand:
Pity me, then, and wish I were renewed;
Whilst, like a willing patient, I will drink
Potions of eisel 'gainst my strong infection;
No bitterness that I will bitter think,
Nor double penance, to correct correction.
Pity me then, dear friend, and I assure ye,
Even that your pity is enough to cure me.
Maybe I'm just looking for pity, as the Bard says. I keep lighting the Advent candles, and the flames keep getting blown out. I'm wondering what I'm doing wrong: are my candles not strong enough to withstand the winds that blow? I "wish I were renewed", but it's not happening.
Of course, I'm fighting to remember that Christmas isn't about the lights and gifts and big splashy displays. It's about the humble, almost hidden birth of the Incarnate Word. It's about saying "yes" when all you want to do is run and hide and hope all the troubles go away. It's about imaging the hope and truth and joy that await when all that surround you are problems and bills and ills and burdens.
O come, o come Emmanuel!.....and the sooner, the better....