This time of year, when the light outside grows dim, the inner flame also seems to have a way of dying down, at least for me.
My creativity seems to decrease, my prayer life grows less satisfying, and my Centering Prayer takes me, not to the inner level where I can be silent and listening to God, but at best only to a place where I can recognize sparks of divine insight, but get caught up in trying to turn them into something.
I suspect, as I age, that this is further complicated by my awareness that my memory isn't what it used to be. So I no longer trust that the "important" thoughts that occur to me during prayer will still be waiting when I emerge from that space. So instead of releasing them I find myself rehearsing them, reciting them, hoping to hang onto them -- both the ideas for poetry that surface and the solutions to the challenges of my to-do list.
The glorious promise of Christmas is that Jesus will be born again; will come back into our lives and fan that guttering inner flame back to light. Our challenge is to trust that God, the divine presence, is more than capable of surviving our task lists and memory lapses; that we are blessed, that great things will be done for, in, and through us, and "Holy is his name."
The gift of Advent, I think, is that each of us is Mary. If we can sink fully into the season, it comes to us that each of us is carrying and birthing that divine spark. It's planted within us, not chosen, and its time of delivery is not under our control. Each of us experiences her own version of labor pains, but there is that promise that each of us will have the opportunity to deliver.