by Elizabeth Hunter—

“Hope begins in the dark,” best-selling author Anne Lamott once said. In deep, dark, winter soil, little seeds nestled underground are kept safe and nurtured. When skies are dark, stars can be seen more clearly. In darkness, the natural sleep cycles of nocturnal animals and the migratory patterns of birds are undisturbed. Darkness has many benefits for human health. Yet we know that as daylight hours lessen, many who are prone to seasonal affective disorder may need extra care. Now we are also beginning to learn that light pollution (not enough darkness) is linked to cancer and psychological disorders. We need both sunlight and darkness—not too much, not too little of either.

As winter approaches, two monthly themes come together in this combined November/ December issue: The Holy Spirit and Advent. On the cover, a dove ornament (not a wild goose, but still a reminder of the Holy Spirit) rests in the branches of a Christmas tree. In this issue’s articles, you’ll find warmth, encouragement and perspectives that may be grounding amid the cold reality of a global pandemic that has taken the lives of some 5 million people worldwide.

First, we’ll ride along with Helen Hollingsworth, as the Holy Spirit finds her lost on a dark, snowy road (p. 5). Then we’ll hear encouraging words from Fleming Rutledge (p. 8) about the very Spirit that “brought the creation itself into being.” We’ll get our exercise going on the Wild Goose Chase Bible study with Sara Olson-Smith (p. 16), who helps us track the signs that the Holy Spirit is “a reviver moving us from despair to hope,” “a refiner bringing us out of falsehood into authentic selves,” and a “re-router moving us from paths of hate to acts of love.”

But what if you’re weary, fearful or angry? It may be healing to read Ron McCallum’s honest, hopeful account of grief (p. 11) and Julia Seymour’s thoughtful analysis of the “Advent ache” (p. 41). After that, over the river and through the woods to grandmothers’ house we go with Lindsay Hardin Freeman (p. 32). Yes, grandmothers, plural! Each week of Advent, we’ll consider how our “spiritual grandmothers” Hannah, Mary, Elizabeth and Anna dealt with their joy and grief, and what their stories offer us, their granddaughters, today.

And that’s not all. Choir members, evangelists, activists, and well, everyone can get on board with Mihee Kim-Kort, who learned (p. 25): that Elizabeth and Mary train us to be witnesses to the gospel with what we see, speak and bless! Plus a bonus: Susan Sparks’ introduction (p. 28) to Mary’s song, The Magnificat, “a subversive song of hope.” Seriously, did you know Mary’s song was admired by both Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Gandhi, and made the leaders of several 20th century governments shake in their boots?

Remember: Hope is a tiny seed that sprouts and grows sturdy roots in the beautiful dark, that blossoms in the beautiful light. We are witnesses to hope, carriers of hope in a kingdom where all are beloved. That’s a lot of Holy Spirit work if you ask me!

Elizabeth Hunter is editor of Gather. A lifelong Lutheran, she enjoys sharing stories with her family, walking in the woods and kayaking along rivers where a quiet peace can be found.

This article is from the November/December 2021 issue of Gather magazine. To read more like it, subscribe to Gather