Cold and rain engulf New England today, yet the glimmer of a second candle soothes and cradles and comforts. Advent is the opening of newness for young and old, the patient instruction of what it is to become human. In large and small ways, we constantly assist one another with that reality and possibility. There is never a moment when we are all we can be and never a moment when we, just as we are, are not enough. Advent is the reassurance that the paradox that is life can be ours, become complete, with attention to the art of living and faithfulness to becoming.
Last year at this time, we gathered at an outdoor memorial service for a young man who died in a car accident. His was a life barely begun, and yet as his father eulogized him, he spoke of his chid’s life as “complete”. The chill washed over us all that night, and what stayed with us was the “completeness”. Life is short no matter how it is measured in years. Life is meaningful no matter how frustrated, disappointed or disillusioned we become. And Advent is the reminder that there are multiple pathways to that sense of completion, multiple ways to live and honor who we are and who others are to us, to respect the gift of hours and minutes, of days and nights, of dawns and dusks. There is a way in which the mystery of all that, the measure of sadness and the sense of completion reside side by side in Advent. There is sadness for what each stage of life invites us to let go of, and there is hope in the promise of each year and decade to come. Hope for completion, for having lived out each gift received and for somehow leaving the world and the people in it somehow better for our having crossed this way.
It is too easy, perhaps, to hide from the truths that surface within us, to assess and remember with dishonesty only that which we prefer. It is too easy to live in the harbor of the familiar. But Advent invites us to much more. The flickering flames refute the darkness and disappointment. They flirt instead with respect and purpose. They fuel the vision of truth and honesty weaving a pattern of respect, reciprocity and honor. They invite us to embrace the real truth of who we are and what we are about, to run with that and to remember that is all we can do. Most importantly, those flickering flames whisper through the darkness that there is far more to who we are and to the human journey than we ever suspected. In companionship, in community, all that becomes so much more clear.
Advent is actually all about becoming real, becoming more than who we have been and better than we are at being human. And so the second flame dances and we move steadily in its glow, meandering towards completion.