Romans 13:11—“Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near.”
Beth Nielsen Chapman wrote a song that begins this way:
All alone I didn’t like the feeling
All alone I sat and cried
All alone I had to find some meaning
In the center of the pain I felt inside.
In a song about grief and loss which in the end offers comfort and hope, she has captured the mood and timbre of the season of Advent. We are, you and I, walking through this season of waiting and hoping for God’s promised messiah to come and save us. The temptation for the church is to rush through these dark days of longing to celebrate the glorious light of Christmas morning. Most of us would rather sing the triumphant refrain of God’s people, “Joy to the world the Lord is come,” than to join the pleading strains of “Let all mortal flesh keep silence.”
What we must not fail to remember, however, is that the message of good news of God’s salvation are first heard in the darkness of night. When Isaiah broke God’s silence by saying, “Comfort, comfort my people,” he spoke to a people languishing in the darkness of exile, wracked by the pain of a crumbled world. When the angel announced to Mary that she was to bear the anointed one, Mary broke into song about God setting things right and lifting up the lowly. When John the Baptist, in echoes of Isaiah’s words from long before, spoke of the day when God would come to save the people from their misery, he was speaking to a people in desperate need of help.
And so it is for us. Many of us sit in the ruins of a world that is crumbling around us, gripped by the pains of death and despair, or broken dreams and dashed hopes. But here is what our Advent celebration proclaims: The night is far gone; the day is near. Each week as we have lit one more candle than the week before, we have proclaimed the good news that the darkness of night is fading away and the light of the world is coming, the light that no darkness shall ever overcome.
We gather to join our voices to Mary’s song of hope that God will make things right, and to affirm the truth once more, the truth that we are not left alone to find meaning in the center of the pain we feel inside. We have Emmanuel, God with us.
And so we remember during these days of Advent to stand up straight against the darkest night as we lift our voices in the longing cry of God’s people: “O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer our spirits by thine advent here; and drive away the shades of night, and pierce the clouds and bring us light! Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!”
During this season of Advent and Christmas, may God fill you with unending joy and peace as you continuously discover the countless ways God becomes flesh among us.
Grant us, O God, that our waiting would be tinged with hope as our longing merges with your longing for a world made whole. We offer you our prayer through Jesus Christ, the light of the world. Amen.