The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
This is my favorite “Christmas” verse because it is the epitome of hope. In my mind it conjures images of epic worlds and the darkness that overtook them – Mordor and the evil creeping across Middle Earth, Narnia in it’s perpetual winter. Despair pervades; hope is dead. Until Frodo sets off and Lucy opens the wardrobe. It ends with rightful kings reigning and peace restored. From those stories spring the revelation: whether it is the darkness of depression and mental illness, loss and grief, stress and worry, isolation and loneliness, guilt, shame, despair, trauma, fear – in all of it a light is dawning.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn
Every year I get lost in the waiting and the (joyous) preparations for the event of a day and forget to engage in Advent on more than just Sunday. Advent means coming: love come down to meet us where we are at. But what does it look like to actively wait, to anticipate a holy day as well as a holiday? I think it is about a yearly retracing of the story from the opening lines to this very moment. It is listening to songs with ears that haven’t grown dull to wild truth they sing. It is marveling again at Mary’s heart and looking for the dawn breaking in our dark places. Because our darkness does not “spoil” Christmas; it is the whole reason for it.
Participating in Advent is mostly allowing the miracle of Christ coming close to invade our daily lives. Ann Voskamp writes, “Love is the face at the center of our universe. A sacred Smile; Holiness ready to die for intimacy.” That last line sends shivers down my spine. This is what the world was waiting for – perfection cloaked in grace coming to not just save us, but to know us. Just like in the stories, our hero is never untouchable. He is here, hands cupped gently around your face, looking in your eyes, calling you close.
Emmanuel, God with us.