This year, for the first time in several years, I feel ready. The external things are not done, but I am not keeping lists. Knowing I can’t begin to accomplish what the world requires for “Christmas,” I have made an effort this year to focus on prayer and quiet contemplation in community. Here and there we have gathered, carving out a few hours or even just a few moments to allow ourselves to be still.
Perhaps walking through the last days of life with a family friend has helped. In conversation with this Dear One, he searched for words to describe the awareness that so much of what has seemed to matter, so much of what is urgent to us in our lives, is of no consequence. When the end approaches, it is as if it all falls away.
In honoring this beautiful man’s wishes for his burial service, we incorporated poetry that reflects the experience of God through nature. A portion of a poem by Wendell Berry captures this:
Why must the gate be narrow?
Because you cannot pass beyond it burdened.
To come into the woods you must leave behind
the six days’ world, all of it, all of its plans and hopes.
You must come without weapon or tool, alone,
expecting nothing, remembering nothing,
into the ease of sight, the brotherhood of eye and leaf.
Perhaps this Dear One helped me to see that Advent also can be a time of allowing nonessentials to fall away. If we give ourselves permission, Advent can be a time of unburdening ourselves, of letting go as we prepare for the Light which nothing can extinguish.