Speaking of writing by amateurs, here are some beautiful reflections on Advent from some years ago, by a priest.
Yet, as colored lights begin to appear on houses and families begin to bustle, I notice a countermovement within myself. It is then that I know that a deep conversion is in the offing. I begin to sense a need to build up inner strength, for I know that my pastoral routine is about to change from programs to problems. The peaceful meditations of Advent will soon give way to prayers for troubled souls at Christmas.Share
I offer no estimation of the timing of traumatic events in the world and would be loath to suggest that there is a greater occurrence of such things around Christmas. I only know that feelings of despair, like those of joy, are more intense at this time of year.
I begin to experience this contention of joy and sorrow when odd associations enter my mind unexpectedly. I will find myself puzzled by the current attraction of laissez-faire economics as I stare at a ceramic Victorian village in a store window. My mind will wander from the quaint depictions of stables and shepherds on the Christmas cards arranged on my desk to images of peasants in Chiapas or refugees in Rwanda or protesters at abortion clinics here in Ohio. My prayers at Vespers will be interrupted by sharp memories of sin and by the vague regrets of middle age. I will fixate on friends lost to misunderstandings, words spoken in anger, or exploits of pride. These all come and sit by the fire with me as I wait for the phone calls of the season: frantic calls from emergency rooms, anxious calls from troubled marriages, a drunken call from a friend at a bar trying to find his way out of the cold comfort of self-hatred.
As Advent gives way to Christmas, the silence endures, but it changes from the soothing quiet of a snowy field to the scary solitude of a darkening woods. I hear the groan and fret of branches in the wind, a wind that is cold and bitter. Here, in the bleakness of late December, I realize I have, once again, sneaked into Bethlehem like a brigand.