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The Inner Journey of Advent

The Christmas season is upon us, and regardless of your traditions, spiritual path or chosen holidays, it is inescapable. For many of us, regardless of the holidays we celebrate, in can be a challenging time. If you have a new baby, or are a tired parent of young children, there is a mix of the joy that children bring and the exhaustion of trying to do it all, or trying to do even some of it! The days are getting shorter, and it’s raining not snowing. Starting new traditions with a young family is exciting, but can feel awkward and lonely until they actually are traditions. It may be harder to travel to be with extended family, and more tiring when you are together. Newborns can have a hard time getting into the holiday spirit, and remembering that Santa visits when they are sleeping. It’s harder to grocery shop, let alone Christmas shop, even with online help.

We are encouraged to be overflowing with our gift giving, but one of you is on unpaid leave and money is tight. And maybe this isn’t even your holiday. What’s an overwhelmed parent to do?

I grew up in a family with an Advent tradition. Advent, as part of the church year, was a time of preparation. At home, we had an advent wreath and lit one candle for each of the four weeks preceding Christmas. As a child, I remember the anticipation of the approaching holiday. As an adult, a quieter time before the celebrations took on new meaning.

For me, connecting with the natural cycles of the earth was a turning point, no pun intended. The tired Earth is putting herself to bed, life hiding beneath the surface as seed and hibernation. Finding ways to travel on an inward journey during this time brought back meaning and balance. For years I made an Advent wreath, which took an hour or two and always dried out. Now, I gather some greens and put them on a tray. I add some candles and some pine cones. If you have young children, a walk around the yard can find objects to add. Once a day, I find a time, maybe 5 minutes alone, or maybe at dinner, to light a candle, adding one each week. In my moments alone I take just a little time to reflect on where I am in my life, what’s important, and what I’m grateful for.

Children can enjoy the candles with a story or dinner. As we head towards the solstice the days are still shortening, but my candles remind me that the light will return again.

We all have challenges and sometimes dark times, but there is much light to be found. In the busyness that surrounds us, crafting one simple moment of the day can help us slow down and find ways to keep it all simple. No matter how you participate in the celebrations at this time of year, we can connect with others through a celebration of light.

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