Monday, 3 December 2012

Advent and silent waiting

What is Advent about? It's counter-cultural, but one of the things Advent is about is waiting in silence.

Waiting is easier or harder if you have some idea of what is likely to happen next. The waiting of pregnancy for example is affected by the expectation of a child to be born.

I remember the first time I was taken to a London theatre for a Christmas pantomime. The best moment for me wasn't the performance, but the moment just before, when the theatre went dark and all was silent expectation of the yet-to-be-experienced joys I'd been promised.

Frederick Buechner, an American author, retired Presbyterian minister and university teacher, relates that sort of feeling to Advent.

Buechner describes Advent so much better than me: 
"The house lights go off and the footlights come on. Even the chattiest stop chattering as they wait in the darkness for the curtain to rise. In the orchestra pit, the violin bows are poised. The conductor has raised his baton. 
In the silence of a midwinter dusk, there is far off in the deeps of it somewhere a sound so faint that for all you can tell it may be only the sound of silence itself. You hold your breath to listen. 
You walk up the steps to the front door. The empty windows at either side of it tell you nothing, or almost nothing. For a second you catch a whiff of some fragrance that reminds you of a place you've never been and a time you have no words for. 
You are aware of the beating of your heart...The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens. Advent is the name of that moment."

Frederick Buechner, Whistling in the Dark: a doubter's dictionary, Harper Collins 1988, pp. 2-3

Image Credit: University of Denver, CC License


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