This is an Advent reflection I wrote for last year’s December newsletter.
The people who walked in darknessIsaiah 9:1
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
on them light has shined.
When I was in middle school, my family took a vacation to the Wisconsin Dells. It was a blast – we went on the duck boats and ate delicious fudge and had a great time. But one of the things I remember most from the trip was the visit we took to Crystal Cave.
I was a nerdy child with an interest in geology, so I was already excited to see the cave, which goes down over 70 feet below the surface of the earth. When we got down to the deepest, darkest part of the cave, our guide told us to stand still where we were and warned us not to move. Then he turned off the light. In an instant, the whole world blinked out of view. There was not a scintilla of light; it was darker than dark down there. I couldn’t even see my own hand when I waved it inches in front of my face!
Then there was a rasping sound in the darkness, and suddenly light exploded into being, reflected and refracted by the thousands of crystals that festooned the cavern’s walls. It was gloriously beautiful. I looked to see where the light was coming from, and saw our guide holding it in his hand. He had struck a single match. That tiny light was enough to light up what felt like the whole world.
This, in a nutshell, is Advent.
During the four weeks of Advent, we, the body of Christ, pause to remember the darkness before we launch ourselves into the season of light. We remember the darkness of the world before Christ came to be in a body. And we remember that we still dwell in darkness, in a world that still desperately needs the tiny, flickering flames of faith that we cup in our hands to shield them against the wind.
Before the world is ablaze with Christmas lights, before taking the plunge into the kaleidoscopic holiday season of bright colors and shiny things and stress, Advent invites all of us to take a deep breath. Breathe. Acknowledge that there is darkness and pain and struggle in your own life (I know it’s there – I’m your pastor; you can’t lie to me), and bring these things before God in prayer. Let Christ’s light shine in your own darkness. Let that be your true Christmas celebration.
Advent is a time for owning our shadows, as the days literally grow shorter and darker. But light is coming. And not just the fleeting, seasonal glow of Christmas; I mean real light. Glorious light. Light enough to light up the whole world.