Advent Dark and Light

I have felt a little unmoored from Advent this year. I treasure the church’s build-up to Christmas, the restraint and anticipation, the closest experience I have to the unbearable and delicious waiting for Christmas I had as a child. I like the weeks marked by candle flame: 1, 2, pink, 4. Blue or purple doesn’t matter to me, although some blues convey longing more effectively than purple ever can.

This year is different. We haven’t been in the same parish every Sunday and we switched hemispheres. In South Africa, the days are growing longer, the sun’s heat more intense.  Here, in the north of Scotland (57.90 degrees latitude), our days are dimming to 6 hours and 29 minutes of sun-up on December 21. We watch the sun come up over the hills, trace a small arch, and descend. Houses on the other side of the loch from us don’t get direct sunshine for months. I’m used to the Northern Hemisphere’s darkening days, and the way lighting candles to prepare for the coming of the Light of the World makes sense as a statement of faith, a protest against the dark. Flickering flames on a wreath of evergreen seem fitting when it’s cold and windy outside and trees have lost their leaves.

Of course, lighting candles in the Southern Hemisphere is appropriate as well. Night  comes there too, it’s just later and warmer, and evergreens don’t stand out in the lush world where every bush and flower and tree is sprouting a new bud, blossom, or bloom, like the world is preparing for a party, plants competing to see who will show up in the most fabulous outfit.

(Purple jacaranda trees made a carpet of purple just in time for the beginning of Advent; yellow pompoms on the acacia trees; red bottle brush flowers; wreaths ready to be hung up in our hotel in Kenya.)

In the Northern Hemisphere, it’s like everything knows not to get too loud.  We don’t want to wake the baby.

I’ve been researching Advent materials especially suited to the Southern Hemisphere’s longer, warmer days and the arrival of the first day of summer.  I haven’t found much. If you know of anything, please share!

But here are a couple that intrigue me and maybe we’ll incorporate them into our family Advent practice next year.

Annette Buckley, in Australia, developed a Watery Advent Wreath, which was adapted by Ipswich Lutheran Church (also in Australia), that notes how important water is in parched places, how it can be a barrier to cross, how necessary it is to stop bushfires.  As the lack of safe drinking water and drought continue to affect people where we live in South Africa, using water as a symbol for longing and life may be very powerful.

Rev. Bosco Peters, in New Zealand, wrote an Advent Collect that reflects springtime, daylight, and sun:

Holy God,
your prophets call us to look forward to the dawn of a new day;
may we who witness the promised springtime
prepare the way for the coming Sun of Justice, Jesus your Christ,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever. Amen.                                                  (

As I think about Advent in heat and light, rather than cold and darkness, it strikes me that my familiar Northern Hemisphere symbols fit well with celebrating something gentle, mild, quiet. These are all important in our loud world and Jesus praised the meek.  But I run the risk of focusing on not waking the baby, rather than remembering–and celebrating–that Jesus didn’t come to be hushed, controlled, or controllable.  Maybe in unrelenting heat and bright summer sunshine I can remember that Jesus Christ is also like a refiner’s fire.



Photos:  Gardening in Africa





  1. Another sensitive missive on the joy of the anticipation. Brought back so many fond memories of waiting for Christmas and hope, especially for a snowy welcome to our northern hemisphere.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Amy and Joe: What a surprise and thrill this morning to see Amy’s sermon for this coming Sunday on the Episcopal Chruch website. I was reading through it without knowing who wrote it and thought: Hey, this is really good. I especially liked the tie between Isaiah’s feast of fat things and the wedding feast at Cana — it was an Epiphany! When I saw that Amy had written it I was still thrilled but no longer surprised. I am also delighted, of course, that another book is in the works. St. Andrew’s remembers and treasures the two of you. I will pass on the news of this reconnection to your fans here. And BTW, we are having an energizing time with our new rector, Hilary Greer. Peace and every blessing, Bob Anderson

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Bob, Thank you so much! It’s always a great gift to hear from you. We hope you are doing well and we’re delighted to hear that St. Andrew’s is! I was thinking just recently, once again, how deeply I was shaped through that congregation and how grateful I am. We were in a church that had a prayer list out for people to add names and it brought to mind gathering for morning prayer and the weekday Eucharist (and having scrapple at breakfast afterward). Please say hello and thank you to all for the gifts this parish gave us. What a blessing this connection is. Blessings and joy to you, Amy


      1. Good morning, Amy. I am reading this five minutes before leaving for the weekday service you remember. I will pass on your message and we will remember and pray for you. Peace be with you!

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s