by Lucinde Metcalfe
For many people, this is the most challenging time of the year, with short, dark, rainy days … it can be hard to dredge up patience or enthusiasm and energy levels are low. We need to reach deep inside ourselves to find the light that was so readily available to us through the summer and early autumn months. The garden has been mostly put to bed, there are sheets covering the raised beds in the greenhouse, the animals are once again gathered in and around the barn. Nature is resting, and we feel that call to draw into ourselves as well … but of course there is so much to prepare for as we get closer to the Winter Solstice and the celebration of Christmas and the twelve Holy Nights.
One of the things that most people associate with this time of the year are the childhood memories of celebrations, favourite stories, songs, special foods. Christmas calls us to find that childhood wonder and simplicity in the midst of all the bustle and preparation, and we are blessed when there are children present to help lead us towards that light, like a candle in the winter darkness. We make our Advent wreaths of greenery, we light the candles, one for each week, and see the light grow. Some begin the Advent season by walking an Advent Spiral, a path laid out with branches and moss that is gradually lit by the light of the candles as each person lights theirs from a central candle and then places it somewhere within the spiral.
Also placed in the greenery are crystals, pine cones, wooden and felted figures, and the light of the candles brings these to life. The Advent Spiral is a good image of our path towards Midwinter, a dark path to the light in the centre, and the sharing of that light to create a path lit for everyone that will guide us into the New Year.
Here at the farm, colourful folded paper stars appear in the windows, the path between the houses is lit by strings of coloured lights that look magical in the early darkness, the kitchens and the candle workshop are cozy and warm and smell of delicious spices and fragrant beeswax.
We breathe all these in with gratitude and are warmed and comforted at the end of a long, cold, wet day. We gather to sing Advent songs and practice our Paradise Play, or to hear Advent stories in our Sunday gathering. On Christmas Eve, everyone will gather to see the Christmas tableau and sing while the candles on the tree are lit, and each house will take a light from the tree in a lantern from which their own Christmas tree will be lit. Later on Christmas Eve, we gather in the barn to sing to the animals, sometimes joined by neighbours. In all of these we can find precious moments that feed the inner child and the weary soul, and help us to overcome the winter darkness.