2The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined. (Isaiah 9:2)
Only one day into the journey, Mary and Joseph were feeling the weight of their trip. As they left the familiar area surrounding the Lake of Galilee, they entered the Jezreel Valley. Mary was tired, oh so tired. The weather had changed and the world was dark. It was hard to see the pathway they were on. It was difficult to be assured that nothing was coming toward them from the side. She so wanted to stop and rest. But they had to keep moving. And they of course could not go back alone. It would not be safe. So, they had to keep moving through the darkness. The air was cold and damp, as if the darkness had wrapped around her. She said a silent prayer for light, for light that would somehow push the darkness away. Once again, she remembered the angel’s words. “Do not be afraid.” But the fears were consuming her. Where was God? God be with us.
Tonight is the longest night of the year, the day of darkness. We don’t do well with darkness. We don’t do well with the unknown, with not being able to see our pathway. And yet so much of our faith journey is made in darkness. In fact, so much of our faith journey actually begins in darkness. Creation begins in darkness. Seeds sprout in darkness. Birth begins in darkness. Even light begins in darkness. And on this day of the longest night, we begin to turn a corner. As the season of winter begins, we are reminded that the cold and the darkness does indeed wrap around the new life that will come to be, protecting it until it is ready to spring forth.
But we try our best to dispel the darkness, to light our lives with whatever artificial light we can find. And we fill our lives with enough light so that we will never experience the darkness. And because our lives are so full, there is no place to begin. There is no room for light. In my old neighborhood, there is a house that is an old French colonial with wonderful verandas lining both floors of the house. For years, the house would outline the verandas with twinkling Christmas lights. It was beautiful. Then, for some reason I’ve never completely understood, they began to add more and more lights. They started by stringing lights across the verandas three, five, seven, fifteen times. Then the next year, they did the same to the house. They must have had 50,000 lights! I would describe it as a veritable blob of holiday lights—so many lights, in fact, that you could no longer see the lines of the house itself. The house had been overtaken by light. And, let me tell you, it was no longer beautiful. Light is not pretty or comforting or even helpful alone. Light is at its best when it illuminates the darkness and creates shadows and contrasts so that we can truly look at the light.
Part of our Advent journey is traveled in darkness. It is a darkness where we wait for what is to come, not really knowing how or when God will come, but knowing that the light is just up ahead as we journey down this Holy pathway, never alone. Traveling in darkness means that we must look to the One that guides us. And, here, in the darkness, we will be able to see the light as it dawns on our world.
In every beginning, there is darkness. The darkness of chaos seems eternal, Yet form emerges: light dawns, and life is born.. (New Union Prayerbook.)
Grace and Peace,