Of Winter, Black Dogs, and Advent

Of Winter, Black Dogs, and Advent


By Iris Chen

It’s Advent! Veni, Veni Emmanuel!

One of the downsides of being a student is that come Advent, I am always in the middle of finals. By the time I am finished, Christmas is upon us and Advent has slipped by. One of the upsides of being a student is that come Advent, I am aware of fleeting time and make a greater effort to participate. As students we prepare for finals [and that’s important!], but really, shouldn’t we be preparing for a greater Final?

I am convinced that living in the northern parts of the Midwest gives one an intuitive understanding of Advent. There’s nothing like negative degrees, biting snowstorms, and overcast skies that cause you to doubt the existence of the sun–really though, I once went two weeks without seeing a peek of blue in the sky– it teaches one the necessity of hope.
All of this cold grayness predisposes one, I think, to what Churchill once called “the black dog.” Tod Worner explains:

The black dog is an ill-defined woefulness that can gnaw at you at unpredictable times for indescribable reasons. Not classically a depression, it is rather a longing for something that is unfulfilled by anything here on earth. If not tilting into a fuller depression, perhaps this is a good thing. C.S. Lewis, after all, once wondered, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.

Last year, the “black dog” was a frequent visitor in my life. Most of my days were marked with desolations and that melancholic woefulness; like a faithful companion, the black dog was constantly at my side. One particularly gloomy day, near the beginning of Advent, the black dog was barking rather loudly and I found myself crying out “Where are You!? Lord, where are You?”

I was struck by the appropriateness of the phrase.

Two thousand years ago, three wise men were asking themselves a similar question: “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.”

Advent is a time of waiting, of anticipation, of expectation and preparation. It’s a time when those insatiable longings ache and groan within us. When I find myself desiring, and yet for what I do not know. I have not known this thing I desire. I know only that I want. I long. I hope. Advent is a time of Hope.

And what do we hope for?
Light. The Son. The dawn from on high that shines upon us who dwell in the darkness and the shadows of death. I hope for the day when the howling black dog will lay down in peace. I hope for the sight of the sun, even if it’s just a glimpse. I hope for the word and love of God incarnate in a little sleeping baby.

Veni, Veni Emmanuel.

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