Celebrating Thanksgiving this past week has been sheer joy for me! On Tuesday of last week, my family traveled down to join my cousin Jane and most of her family at Myrtle Beach. We haven’t celebrated a Thanksgiving together since the 1980’s and so I had been anticipating this time together for months. As I had anticipated the sun, the breeze, the water, and the time with family was a renewing and healing time after a very busy month and before an even busier month. I am grateful for my cousin Jane’s gift to our family.
Driving down on Tuesday night, I was quite taken by the beauty of the moon. Just one night away from being completely full, the moon was large and bright and a gorgeous shade of orange. I watched it through the window as we traveled along the dark highways and it felt to me like this moon was traveling along with us, a bright companion along the journey.
As I watched the moon seem to dart in and out from behind trees I remembered times from my childhood, riding in a car at night and watching the moon “play” the same game with me, playing hide and seek with me, traveling along the way with me, keep me entertained on what seemed like a long way to travel. And then, finally, I would imagine the moon smiling at me as I fell asleep and as I would wake up briefly as my father carried me from the car into the house, there was always the knowledge that the moon was there.
Curious, I googled what I could find out about this moon and what I discovered moved me to a very reflective mood. In the old Celtic tradition, the full moon of November is called the “Mourning moon” because it is the last full moon before the Winter Solstice, so there is a feeling of loss. The days are shorter each day, the nights are longer each night. The light is fading from the earth and the darkness appears to be taking over. There is a sense of needing to let go of something, to acknowledge that this is a time of mourning all that seems to be dying around us.
What could be more appropriate than a “Mourning Moon?” Can’t you just imagine the moon “looking” down upon our world and witnessing all of the terror and fear of the last few weeks? Can’t you just imagine the feeling of loss and mourning? At least, I can imagine the feelings of loss and broken heartedness on the part of God as God witnesses the events of the world. I can imagine God weeping and mourning over us.
Each night at the beach I have been obsessed with watching the moon rise. Even knowing that this is the “Mourning Moon” I have had to be present when it rose above the horizon of the water. What I noticed is that even in mourning, this moon has been a beacon of light, bright and orange, casting a glow and a shimmer of light on the dark water.
Night after night, I have taken picture after picture of this “Mourning Moon,” none of which turned out well, but all of which gave me a hint of mystery. Each night I have watched and waited and most often been caught “off guard” because the moon’s appearance has been sudden. First there is nothing but dark sky over dark water. And then, suddenly there is light, there is hope.
This year, as in many years, our world is not much different as the darkness of the world that surrounded the prophets of old. And yet, something in their lives gave them hope and they were able to proclaim the coming of One whose very life and death and resurrection would redeem the dark conditions of the world. Indeed, many think that things really haven’t changed—that the world is still just as dark and just as sinister as the world has ever been. Maybe they are right.
One thing is for certain, the darkness of our world has the brightness of light and hope. The Holy One, Christ, who is the Light of the world, may be mourning over us, but he is still present, calling us to hope, calling us to act, calling us to do the hard work of loving and offering justice. We do not do these acts in darkness, but in the Light of the One who is present in the midst of all of life—sometimes with joy, sometimes with a broken heart.
The prophet Jeremiah reminds us of this hope in our first prophecy reading for Advent this year: “In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.” (Jeremiah 33:15)
For centuries, the prophet Jeremiah has been reminding us something that we already know. The Branch, the Christ, is the hope that springs forth from that which seems hopeless. This year, more than ever, I find this Advent image comforting. Like the “Mourning Moon” that does not withhold its gorgeous light, the hope and love and grace of Christ is not withheld from us—from this world—even though we grieve his heart and have turned away from his love.
This Advent season, I pray that I may go forth in boldness to reflect the Light of this World in a gorgeous and loving manner. I pray that I may be bold in offering hope and love and justice and peace wherever I can. I pray that I may be bold in using my voice to speak of the justice and grace that Christ longs for in this world. This Advent, even though I may mourn over the events that occur, I will not give up the hope that Christ showers and shimmers upon us like the gorgeous light of the “Mourning Moon” that showers and shimmers upon the water.
Will you join me?
To God alone be glory.