Ana Hernández

composer, arranger, workshop facilitator, author, and mischief maker

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Listening in the Dark

Listening in the Dark: Daily Advent Reflections for Radical Discipleship Communities, edited by Tommy Airey and Lydia Wylie-Kellerman

The season of Advent continues to roll around each year, and as usual I’m running late in the “Prepare ye the way” department. I usually make it a point to look at art,  listen to a playlist, or read a daily reflection, but when I woke up on the First Sunday of December and realized I didn’t have a plan to feed my hungry spirit, I did what I usually do: I emptied my inbox so I could free up some head space. Some way through the task I came across a blog post from Radical Discipleship and saw mention of a book of Advent Reflections. I ordered it (which I almost never do) and promptly forgot about it. It arrived on a most auspicious day (more on that later) and I’ve been showing it to anyone and everyone because it’s that good. Now I’m sharing it with you.

In the Introduction, Tommy Airey reminds us that Advent is about light and that “Radical grows up from the Latin word radices meaning roots. A tree’s life and health is found below the earth. In the darkness. We cannot see the roots. Unless we dig.” Digging deep and connecting the dots is what this book helps us to do. The opening meditation  “And so we begin…” by Lydia Wylie-Kellerman re-minds us to breathe, and to let the darkness creep in.

With readings by poets and activists, Listening in the Dark is a rich collection that bears repeated reading. Order one or a dozen for your favorite people – you’ll blaze through it when it comes, give thanks for the extra readings for Christmas, Holy Innocents, and Epiphany, and save it to read again.

The reading for the First Sunday of Advent was written by Jeanie Wylie-Kellerman (d. 2005), and begins with a reading from the book of James 5:7-11. Then comes this:

“Two weeks before my body succumbed to seizures in early September, an episode that resulted in the diagnosis of a brain tumor, I lay on my living room floor crying as I listened to “God Help Us” by the Miserable Offenders. I studied the new arrangements of traditional hymns and the original pieces, all dealing with the crux of our faith, the business of living and dying, the need to pay attention to our lives, the welcome held out for the sinner. Listening, I wondered how we ever forgot how fragile life is and how immanent our encounter with God.
Not bad thoughts for Advent.”

Not bad at all; I wondered why I never thought of it quite like that before, especially since God Help Us is my second album. Tears welled up, and in that moment I realized it was five years to the day since the death of the other Miserable Offender, Deborah Griffin Bly. So, two dead friends on one page. How these spirit things happen I do not know, but since then I’ve been engaged each day in Listening in the Dark, with its reminders (here’s Jeanie W-K again) “to honor the silence, breathe, recall, to intuit, to dream the life we’re called to and then make a plan that allows us to strip down enough to have it. In the course of that, of course, we need to give thanks for all that we are and for those traveling in our circles and beyond.”
Yeah, givin’ thanks.


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