I continue to be surprised this time of year by how early darkness settles over our part of the world. I get so used to it staying light later in the summer that by the time we reach winter the contrast is stark and somewhat jarring, especially after Daylight Saving ends. How can it be dark at 4:30 in the afternoon? Darkness at 4:30 makes it hard to see inside and outside, so we have to turn on the lights and headlights sooner. Nature provides us with a great way to enter the Christian story of light and darkness during Advent.
Before science helped us understand how longer nights and shorter days are tied to the rotation of the earth, ancient people believed that the darkness at this time of year might someday overcome the light and extinguish it forever. Even though we know why it gets darker at this time of year, that doesn’t change how it feels when darkness seems such a powerful force. When so many forces that rob us of human dignity and this world of its creative abilities, darkness seems to be winning. That’s why the creation story of Genesis 1 starts with the world engulfed in darkness. Or, why Isaiah described his nation as a “people who walked in darkness”. When the powers of sin and death, injustice and prejudice, doubt and despair, hunger and poverty seem overwhelming, people feel as though they are walking in darkness and the earth and its life are full of chaos.
Our Advent theme this year From Darkness to Light invites us look around and see the darkness of life as a way to prepare for the coming Light. If we do not see and acknowledge the darkness, we cannot understand God’s purpose in sending Jesus and God’s mission in the world through Jesus Christ. And worse, we may miss “the true light that gives light to all people.” That’s how the Gospel of John describes some people. “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.”
Our Advent theme verse tells us what God wants to do as we wait for the Light during Advent and celebrate its arrival at Christmas. “The Lord, our God, lights up our darkness” (Ps. 18:28). God does not intend to leave people in darkness, but seeks to light up the darkness of this world. The Christmas story is about God breaking into the darkness with the light. Sin is exposed, death is overcome, brokenness is healed and new life is experienced. As Isaiah described it, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined.” When God arrives, creation is renewed and people are valued and made whole.
As we wait for the light to break forth, Advent invites us into a time of examination and preparation. What darkness in your life does God want to light up? Where do you see God lighting up darkness in your neighborhood and community? How will we live as children of the Light, no matter how dark it is around us? Join us this Advent and Christmas, as we journey from darkness to light, discovering along the way what it means to live and walk in God’s illuminating, liberating, loving Light.
See You in Church,