During Advent, I love belting out Light One Candle to Watch for Messiah as our young acolyte solemnly lights one of the four blue candles in our church’s Advent wreath.
“Light one candle to watch for Messiah: let the light banish
darkness. He shall bring salvation to Israel, God fulfills the promise.
Light two candles to watch for Messiah: let the light banish darkness.
He shall feed the flock like a shepherd, gently lead them homeward.
Light three candles to watch for Messiah: let the light banish darkness.
Lift your heads and lift high the gateway for the King of glory. Light
four candles to watch for Messiah: let the light banish darkness. He is coming, tell the glad tidings. Let your lights be shining.”
What a great song of confidence that we can be sure of Christ’s coming, of God’s promises.
This summer, I had the opportunity to take a course led by author and psychotherapist, J. Marshall Jenkins. Jenkins created a course at Columbia Theological Seminary’s Center for Lifelong Learning using his unpublished manuscript Blessed at the Broken Places: Reclaiming Faith and Purpose with the Beatitudes. His blog on the beatitudes can be found here.
At the end of these courses at Lifelong Learning, students are asked to write a 10-page-reflective paper pondering any insights we gleaned. We are asked to write the papers in a spiritual and contemplative manner.
Marshall’s relaxed and inviting guidance (he is also a spiritual director), and his use of the beatitudes as Scriptural starting points, moved me to acknowledge some dark places I had yet to fully address. This course led me to challenge the traditional response to darkness and our dark places, just as the beatitudes offer a countercultural response to life’s bitter circumstances.
In response to my paper, Marshall wrote:
“Adrainne, I found your paper DEEPLY MOVING. This is poetry! You clearly know firsthand the dark night and the grace of which you write.
I will say a prayer for you on your journey. It is a faithful and inspiring one!”
Please settle in with your favorite beverage, blow out a candle and enjoy Blessed are those who Mourn.