I have written some version of these words many times throughout 2020, but here they are again: this Advent and Christmas season will be unlike any other we have experienced. With a newly issued executive order in our state, and hospital beds across Minnesota completely full, it's more important than ever that we stay put in our homes for the next few weeks. We hope and pray this will be the last time.
Even though we know this is the right thing to do, it's still hard. Especially at this time of year, as cold weather and darkness encroach. There's nothing that gets me through a long Minnesota winter more than gathering in warm, bright places with my community, singing carols and inhaling all the sugar, butter, and lefse my body can handle. There's nothing better for my spirit than lighting a candle, singing a prayer, and remembering the hope of Christ Jesus being born anew within our hearts, within this whole groaning creation.
This year, we won't get to physically do any of these things in the company of others. Which means, more than ever, we will each have to figure out a way to dwell and trust in the faith we carry within us, the faith we have in Christ. Simple words from a plaintive chant will ground and center our worship this Advent season:
In silence we wait, in darkness you come to us; bring us your light.
These words have already been serving as a kind of mantra for me this winter. Every other year, we have been so quick to buy into dualisms between darkness and light, despair and hope. "Don't let darkness snuff it out, I'm gonna let it shine!" we sing from an early age. But here, in the words of this chant, another truth breaks through: Christ comes to us in darkness. Darkness, in this sense, is not at all equated with "bad." Darkness is a reality of life sometimes, and God consistently shows up most powerfully in dark places:
Daniel is entombed in a lion's den, and God protects him there. God's Spirit hovers over the deep darkness and is present there before those first words of the Creator usher forth: "Let there be light." A new creation begins to grow within the darkness of Mary's womb. When this baby grows up and faces death, something happens within the darkness of that tomb - the grave - that has laid the foundation of our faith for millennia.
This has been a hard year, but there really can be a gift in hard things. God meets us in suffering and in darkness just as powerfully as God meets us in joy and in light. Church, let this be the year where we find the power of God in the beautiful darkness. Next year, by God's grace, it will be all joy, all carols, all brightness.
In silence, we wait.