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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Countdown to Christmas/Advent (10/23/08)

TITLE: Dark Advent
By Kathy Ludwig


She sat alone in her accustomed place in the small church and watched as the youngster lit the first of the Advent candles. She despaired in her heart of ever celebrating the joyous season again. In this new century, one didn't wear widow's weeds to proclaim a state of mourning, still she felt draped and enfolded in a deeper darkness. Last year at this time her Charlie sat beside her, now there was only a cold empty space where he should be and, since his passing, she could not bear to set even her hymnal in that spot, so deep was her longing to have him beside her once again. "How," she wondered, "do you prepare your heart for the Christ Child's coming when your heart is broken?"

It had been a year of horrible firsts, every one followed by the phrase, "without Charlie". Her birthday, his birthday, their anniversary, Easter, spring, summer, Thanksgiving and now, the hardest yet, her first Christmas without Charlie.

On the Second Sunday of Advent, she thought of staying home but knew that she must find a way through this blinding pain. The only thing she could do was just get on with life so she dragged herself from her bed and went to church. As a small boy lit the second candle, her mind turned unexpectedly to how God might have prepared for the advent of His son, knowing from the beginning what the outcome would be. Did He mourn, as she was mourning now? Was Their separation as painful as hers from Charlie?

She brooded over the question all week but concluded nothing until the Third Sunday in Advent. This time, as the acolyte lit the third candle, a small flame sparked within her heart as well. The congregation sang the haunting Advent hymn and she understood that God had indeed mourned - for her, for Charlie, for her family, for these friends that surrounded her - and His grief was so deep that He created a plan to make them whole again, a plan of redemption and return. She wept at the thought of the raw pain God must have felt and marveled at the wonder of His solution.

The Fourth Sunday of Advent found her in her seat early. She wanted to meditate on the new ideas God had presented to her and she waited with expectation for yet another insight. The fourth candle was lit and she thought for a moment of how quickly, despite her grief, the four weeks had gone. In that instant, God turned her thoughts to how brief earthly life really is. Merely the womb, preparing us for a broader, freer existence in eternity and a more joyous life in God's very presence, this place was only the beginning of the life we were created for. And to think, her Charlie was there even now, celebrating his first Christmas, a spiritual infant in the presence of the Almighty. She set her hymnal down on Charlie's seat and patted it gently. The thought of Charlie celebrating seemed so real and right.

On Christmas Eve, her usual seat was taken by the time she arrived, so she sat near an old friend. The comfort of it was remarkable. She watched as a young girl lit the Advent candles once again, this time ending with the Christ candle. She wept at the precious gift the candle represented. There was still pain in her heart and she knew her mourning was not finished, she would miss Charlie for a long time yet, but something new was growing from the grief, a deeper awareness and a new excitement for God's plan.

No, "Merry Christmas" was not yet in her heart or on her tongue, but she hugged her friend and left her with a new salutation, "May the blessing of the Christ Child be yours."

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Member Comments
Member Date
Gregory Kane11/01/08
Brooding, poignant writing. It's a delight to find writing of this standard in Beginners. And thanks for showing another side to Christmas. The God who puts joy in our hearts is the same God who calls us to mourn with those who mourn.
Diana Dart 11/03/08
Wow. This is fantastic writing, flows well with great suspense and a good ending. The title drew me in.
Leslie Schonfeld11/06/08
Beautifully written. I felt the emotions you expressed throughout the piece. Well done.
Marijo Phelps11/06/08
You captured my attention from the title onward. Great portrail of the raw emotions of losing your spouse and tying it in with what the Father must have felt. Excellent job!