(An advent letter sent to the people of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Old Saybrook, CT Dec 6, 2017)
Advent blessings to you and Merry Christmas!
“The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:5)
I’m not afraid of the dark, but I don’t like it very much.
As I write this I sit alone in my living room and it is very early in the morning. It is dark. It is still. The family is still sleeping upstairs. The coffee timer has yet to begin its brewing process and the only light at all is emitting from the device on which I am composing these words along with the street light peering through closed blinds.
Our family is still recovering from our getaway to Europe at Thanksgiving and our body clocks are still making adjustments to being us back to “normal.” Many mornings in our home since our return have begun with a four on the clock and we are still dozing off around eight o’clock at night. It seems like these dark days are darker and longer than other Decembers any of us can remember. That is why I am up so early this morning, sitting in the darkness, wondering when or even if Light will come.
The news cycle is full of scandal, violence and darkness at every turn, bearing witness to people not only behaving badly but cruelly and inhumanely to each other. We feel so helpless at countless human tragedy and loss of life as the darkness tries to force its way upon us. Our politics has become so vile and contemptuous that good people on either side of the aisle cringe in disgust and walk away angry. It becomes more evident to me each day that evil is not only present in our world but casts its shadow over all of us to keep us afraid, uncertain and suspicious of one another. Speaking just for myself, sometimes I wonder if there can be any end to it before darkness consumes us all.
Yet, our Advent hope is to wait with quiet expectation that God will deliver us and that the Light of Jesus will indeed shine both on us and in our world. We receive the promise that “The Light will shine and darkness did not overcome it.” Yet, in these darkened times I think we all grow skeptical if we will ever see that Light again.
The timer turns on the lights on our Christmas tree and my living room has a renewed beauty and brightness. There is a focus and a draw to the room now as my eyes cannot help but fixate on those tree lights even though the shadows are still lurking around me.
Maybe that is how Jesus comes.
I used to think “The Light shining in the darkness” would arrive like the Big Bang erupting out of the vast emptiness as God called forth this universe with a powerful shout — “Light!” I’ll still hold onto that image as I consider the cosmos around us, but this morning I wonder if God isn’t up to something a little more subtle and dangerous among us as these dark days encroach upon us.
The Light that is coming may come like the tree lights now making this space shine in its beautiful simplicity. There is a stillness here now that both calms my spirit and bolsters my hope for the future. At Christmas we celebrate the Light coming as the vulnerable child in a manger appearing to shepherds hidden in Bethlehem; not as a powerful warrior set ablaze on the mountaintop so that everyone would see him destroy his enemies. A self-aggrandizing power-play would be the thing darkness would do. Instead, the subtle Light of the manger illumines our lives in a gentler, kinder and more nurturing way, eroding the darkness’ foothold upon us so that we rise to reflect its radiance. Like those shepherds before us – fully embraced with the warmth and beauty of an undeserved love freely calling us into relationship – we shine too. When we do, darkness cowers; exposing its cowardice by what it will never understand – grace, mercy and peace.
In these days that grow ever darker before Christmas, I invite you to look for the Light that shines around you in subtle ways. Share that Light with your loved ones and friends. Talk about it and help others discover it calling and embracing them too.
Remember when you get discouraged: Light is coming!
When it does, God’s grace, mercy and peace will ‘click’ a new reality of Christ’s Light in you.