Monday, 17 December 2012

Advent Thoughts

I sometimes think that Christianity is an extrovert's religion.* At my church on Advent we have an Advent Garden, or labyrinth, which is a spiral of pine boughs with a candle in the centre. We turn off the lights, and congregants circle the labyrinth with a tea light, light it on the centre candle, and leave again, placing the candle somewhere among the pine boughs on the way out. As more congregants participate, the candles increase; as candles increase, so does the light in the room. It is a simple but evocative image for Advent.

One of the things I realized this year is how much I prefer candlelight services because the light levels are low. I am a classic introvert in almost all measures: I prefer low stimulation to high stimulation most of the time (with pretty much only two exceptions: intellectual stimulation and olfactory stimulation). So candlelight services are nice not because they symbolize light overpowering darkness but because they don't have much light at all. By the symbolic logic involved, that would say bad things about me. (I also like the particular quality of candle light--soft, moving, unobtrusive.)

I'm not really trying to draw any conclusions. It just seems that even some of the most fundamental images--light overcoming dark--aren't as emotionally clear-cut as some might like them to be. Or maybe this is my Winter Christian identity in play: I'm not really comfortable unless my discomfort is acknowledged. I once had a housemate who called me a vampire because I would walk about the house in the dark if no one else had turned the lights on (I was trying to conserve energy).

*The "sometimes" is meant to indicate that I'm not actually willing to stand by this sweeping generalization. That being said, I do think much about Christian culture is easier for extroverts than for introverts.
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