“This advent, do not fear the dark because the light is coming. How will Christ's light shine on you this Holiday season and into the new year?”
We have entered my favorite time of year on the liturgical calendar: Advent.
In this season, we prepare our hearts for the coming of the light into the world.
I remember once, while serving Zion United Church of Christ in Mayview MO, my wife was visited by a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It was in the days before Christmas and our house was fully decorated.
Mimi invited them in and offered them some of the Christmas cookies she had baked. She always welcomed visiting evangelists in, using the time with them to carry on conversation about our respective faiths. It was less an argument than a deep conversation about the differences between us and the need to respect each other in spite of them.
On this occasion, the Witnesses tried to convince Mimi that Christmas was not a legitimate holiday for Christians to celebrate. The Bible didn’t tell us anything about when Jesus was born, and Dec. 25th was actually an adaptation, they argued, of an old pagan ritual. Believing they were sharing some new information with her that would convince her to stop practicing pagan religions, they were surprised to hear her say she knew that.
“Oh yes,” she said. “Saturnalia, the celebration of the lengthening of the days. Because we really don’t know what time of year Jesus was born, and we had to pick something, what better time of year to do that than when we celebrate the return of the light.”
They thought about it for a second, and told her that – you know what – maybe they would share a cookie or two with her.
I could tell more stories about conversations Mimi had over the years in that living room with others about her beliefs and theirs – but that would be a digression. This story is about the return of light.
Here is the Christmas story according to the Gospel of John:
In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of all. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
This theme is picked up later in John’s gospel when, in Chapter 8, Jesus says of himself:
I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.
In the third verse of my favorite Advent hymn, we sing this:
O Come thou Day-Spring, come and cheer our spirits by thine advent here; disperse the gloomy clouds of night and death’s dark shadows put to flight.
We often walk through or are carried through what the Psalmist called the shadowed valleys. Life can come at us fast and hard and we are prone to metaphorical, spiritual, and emotional pain that often feels like an absence of light.
Into those shadowed valleys will come the light of Christ. It is a light that brings love. It is a love that heals. It is a healing that lasts.
This Advent, fear not the darkness that comes for the night. Wait with patience for the joy that cometh in the morning – the light of the rising sun. And may the lengthening of the day and the coming of the light bring you new joy for this, your Journey into the Mystic.