Somewhere in mid-November, most Americans wake up to the gloomy realization that stupid Daylight Savings Time has arrived (or departed?). This means that for the rest of the winter, until mid-March or so, the sun will set immediately after lunch.
To combat the resulting despair, we collectively stomp up to our attics and pull out every tangled string and strand of indoor/outdoor lights that we possibly can.
And by the end of Thanksgiving weekend? Presto! Every home in the neighborhood is lit to the nines in solidarity against SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) which in case you didn’t already know is a clinical depression caused by lack of sunlight.
I have a special kind of love affair with festive lights, and not just around the holidays. I’ve never met a string of lights that I didn’t adore. Patios, walkways, arbors, arches, and reading nooks are always more welcoming with a canopy of cheery lights overhead, in my opinion.
And so today’s Advent readings are interesting to me, coming on the heels of so much foreboding and sudden darkness that was yesterday’s apocalypse.
Today we are given instructions on where to find light and how to light as we wait together for the day to dawn.
Two ways to find more light as you wait for Christ this Advent:
1. Get up (earlier?) in the morning and offer your undivided attention to the God who watched and sustained you while you slept.
“O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch….” (Psalm 5)
It might feel like a sacrifice to not scroll through your social media feeds first thing in the morning. But from where will true light really come to us today? Facebook? Email? Fox News? BBC, Twitter, or NPR? What voices and images will be the first to feed your soul?
The waiting nature of Advent encourages us to make room for God’s quiet voice first. It urges us to offer a precious sacrifice of undistracted time with ‘the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows…” (James 1).
2. Take a moment to honestly assess the parts of life that feel dark. Where do you long for more light? What feels uncertain, unsafe, unhealthy, or terribly unfair. What is it that you have lost, or has been stolen from you? Where has the light gone out from your spirit or relationships? Write them down.
Now notice the voices in and around your that demand you DO SOMETHING to generate some of your own light in the places that feel dark. Notice their insistence that you’ve been wronged; that you are in the right; that you should get your own way. Observe how quickly they expect others to forgive first and bend to your will to keep the peace.
These voices do not come from God. Neither do voices that condemn, shame, or accuse. They will lead down a path to ever more darkness and and hardness and despair. Bring them into the light and expose them to the mercy and wisdom of God.
The waiting nature of Advent helps us discern the will of the Word that spoke all creation into existence. “Let there be light…” was the will of the God in the beginning and he will speak light into our darkness too, bright as the noonday sun.
How do I know? Because God sent his best word, Jesus, into the dark and weary world. And the world didn’t want him. We wanted someone BRIGHTER. We wanted someone who wouldn’t disrupt our own will from being done.
And so the world snuffed him out because they loved the sound of their own voices. “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and the people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” (John 3)
Jesus, even though there was no darkness in him, gave up his rights as God’s beloved son – he was abandoned – so that we would never be alone in the dark again.
Jesus, his appearance like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow, left the beauty and light of heaven to take on our flesh. He let it be broken for us – he was abused – so we would not be forever broken or wounded or ashamed .
Jesus, his will always aligned with his father, is coming again. Wait for him. Watch for him. For soon he will return – in great power and might as King – and the darkness and dread will be no more.
“And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever….” (Revelation 22)
Friends, thank you for bearing with me as I forge this Advent discipline of making room to listen and respond to God’s word in real time. I wish I could spend ten more hours thinking on each post, and edit in a more worthy manner that would make Hemingway proud.
But, like the stunned and rejoicing shepherds, this is my humble offering – my waiting in the dark – for Jesus this season.
Peace to you and yours for you are beautiful, welcoming lights that adorn the way of a dark and weary world.
* Psalms 5,6 and 2 Peter 1:12-21*