I don't function very well in Advent. It's not so much because of the liturgical season itself, though the fierce calls for repentance in hymns and liturgy don't exactly raise the spirits. Nor is it because of the inevitable rush to write Christmas cards and wrap parcels before the last date for posting.
It's because it's always so dark.
The darkest days of the year come upon us in the middle of November. The weather this year has been damp and dreary, and with the days continuing to get shorter I seem to have been functioning in an electrically lit environment all day, every day. That just doesn't do it for me. I'm like a plant; I need light and sunshine. Sunlight makes me feel better and cheers me up, but we just don't get much of it in this dark season of Advent. But then comes the turning point -the 21st of December, the shortest day - and from then on the days will get longer and I'm reminded that there will soon be more light in my day to day life. I have a reason for hope.
This is what we're led into by the season of Advent, but the Advent light is not the light that helps plants grow, and me to function as a more positive human being. By the end of the season we'll have been reminded of our reason for hope. There is a light to come - one which can shine into the darkest places of humanity. On the last Sunday in Advent in my church this year we'll reflect on Luke1: 39 - 45 and we'll sing 'Tell out my soul', Mary's Magnificat. Then I'll remember that there is hope - that the political situation will be redeemed, that refugees will find homes, that the hungry will be fed. So I join in with Mary's 'Yes', and prepare myself for the coming of the Christ child.
Ann Barlow joined SCM a long time ago as a student. Now retired from working in university student support, she's an SCM Friend and a member of the Council of Reference (SCM's advisory body to the Trustees).