Sunday 27 November 2016

Awakening to the Love of Winter

Winter comes in many forms in our lives. Whatever form it takes the universal response to winter is to hope that it will soon be over, to wish it all away. It is often a time of year that we want to pass through so as to once again reach the re-birth and renewal of spring. So many of us do not like the cold, the dark, the lifelessness of winter. How often do we wish that it was over?

We need winter though. We need the times of darkness and coldness. We need the stillness of winter too. We need this time of preparation. We need to slow down and reflect on what has been. We need to feel the cold and experience the fear and loneliness of the darkness to prepare ourselves for the light and the new life that is yet to come. We need to prepare for the new love that can be reborn in the spring time. We need to allow the new love to be born in our hearts once again and shine out onto our world. We need to remain open to this love in this the darkest and coldest time of the year.

I really felt the cold the other morning. It feels like winter. Yes I know that officially it is not until the 1st of December, but tell that to the air. I felt the cold of winter as I awoke to prepare myself for Advent and the weeks ahead.  Winter is here. I’m sure that we have all felt the cold of winter these last few days and nights. Each morning as I awaken it is still dark and as each day passes the light seems to turn back to dark oh so quickly. The days of light seem oh so far away. On days like this it is so easy to wish away the winter, to wish that it will quickly be over. It is hard, at times, to wait patiently for the coming of lighter and warmer days ahead.

In this darkest coldest season we celebrate the coming of the new light and the new life, exemplified in the birth of a child. A child that is born again in our own hearts when we live in love ourselves. “In the bleak mid-winter, in this world of pain where our hearts are open Christ is born again.”

This is what the season is for. To prepare ourselves for the new love that is yet to be born in the mangers of our own hearts. A time to wait for what is yet to come in the New Year.

So let us not wish this time of year to be over, even though it soon will be. Let us instead fully experience this time. Let us prepare for the new love waiting to be born in our own hearts and when the spring time comes let us pour out this Love on a world that so dearly needs this. For surely this is our task. To give birth to love that sleeps peacefully, these silent nights, in the mangers of our own hearts.
Today marks the beginning of Advent. A time for waiting, a time of preparation. A time set aside to wait for the “coming” of Love in human form symbolised in the birth of the Christ child. A promise of what love can become if we let it grow and nurture in our hearts and lives. For every new life is the gift of promise and possibility. A gift of possibility that can be reborn in each of our lives if we allow it to be.

The season of Advent invites us to embrace the spiritual discipline of waiting. We cannot rush through this season, we must experience it all, before the moment of magic. We must first sing the carols, light the candles and open the doors of the calendars. We must select our gifts for our loved ones and we must prepare ourselves for the year to come. We must experience the whole of this season if we are to give birth to the love that is at the core of it all; if we are to grow this love in the mangers of our own hearts and to give birth to and both experience and share it in our world. A world that needs love and hope as much as at any time in our history.

Advent is a season of preparation and it cannot be rushed. It requires patience. We cannot wish the days away, we cannot wish the winter away. We have to wait patiently, but not passively.
This idea of waiting and nurturing of love brings to mind the following piece of wisdom by Paula Gooder.  She writes on pregnancy as a model of active and nurturing waiting, which she also sees as characteristic of the season of Advent and Hope.

“The Meaning Is in the Waiting :The Spirit of Advent” By Paula Gooder 

"As I waited for the birth of my baby, I discovered that waiting can be a nurturing time, valuable in its own right. Until then, I had assumed that waiting could only be passive, that it involved sitting around, drumming my fingers, completely powerless to do anything until the moment of waiting passed and I could be active again. How wrong I was. The waiting of pregnancy is about as active an occupation as one can hope to engage in. Pregnant waiting is a profoundly creative act, involving a slow growth to new life. This kind of waiting may appear passive externally but internally consists of never-ending action and is a helpful analogy for the kind of waiting that Advent requires. For many of us, Advent is such a busy time with all our preparations for Christmas that the thought of stopping and sitting passively — while attractive in many ways — is simply impossible. Advent, however, does not demand passivity but the utmost activity: active internal waiting that knits together new life.

"One of the other things I learned during pregnancy was that learning to savor the time of waiting allows us also to appreciate the event when it comes. The loss of an ability to wait often brings with it the inability to be fully and joyfully present now. Instead, we are constantly looking backward to better times we used to know and forward to better times that may be coming. The more we do this, the more we miss the present. Not only that, but it becomes hard to appreciate the future moment even when it does come. Many people speak of the feeling of deep anticlimax on Christmas Day when that long-anticipated day does not live up to expectations. Often the reason for this is that we live forever in the future, so that, when the future becomes the present, we are ill equipped to deal with it and have lost the ability to be fully present, right now.

"One of the many reasons we wait in Advent is to hone our skills of being joyfully and fully present now. After a month of doing this, Christmas Day can gain a depth and meaning that would otherwise fly past in a whirl of presents and mince pies."

I believe that Paula highlights some deeply important and spiritually enriching aspects of Advent, that can so easily be missed. If we wait patiently, but not passively, we will truly appreciate the day when it comes, as we will appreciate our lives when each new day comes. This waiting patiently but not passively will enable us to truly experience the gift that is our lives as it will truly allow us to not only live in the present, but to open the gift of the present, to truly give birth to it and to bring the present to life and thus truly experience what it is to be alive.

So let’s prepare ourselves for the moment of magic yet to come. Let’s nurture the love within us and prepare to give birth to it in our lives. Let’s not wish these dark cold days away. There is a beautiful gift in them if we allow ourselves to fully experience them. We need to experience each and every sensation of this season. Much like a mother who experiences the stirring of her baby in the womb we must experience each and every moment of this season before the moment of magic when the love is ready to once again be born.

If we do we will bring alive that love that is deep within each of us. If we prepare ourselves we will nurture that seed of love in all our hearts and we will bring it to life and therefore shine some light on the dark places in our lives and in our world. We can give birth to love in the mangers of our own hearts.