As the many small candles are lit to curse the darkness in the streets of Newtown, Connecticut and around the country, we are finding ourselves in a real "Advent" moment. What do I mean by that? We Christians in the mainline tradition tend to retain more of the historical church observances than some of our brothers and sisters. One of these traditions is the observance of a four week period of "waiting,
longing, watching, and anticipation" leading up to the celebration of Christmas.
This is really counter the culture at large now, as Christmas marketing displays are now appearing right after all the Halloween pumpkins are packed away. During this time when most others are going full tilt with Christmas celebration, we observe a time that is somewhat more subdued. Dominated by the color of blue...a color of hopeful, summer blue sky, and in some cases, the deep blue of a dark night, we light a candle on each day of the four weeks, adding a candle each week to remind us that no matter how deep the darkness of the world, a little light shines in the darkened corners. This little light grows slowly brighter over the four weeks as four candles burn. There is no rush to the brightness of the Christmas star. First, we talk about the need to "get our own houses in order", to recognize the reality of the deep darkness in which we walk before, as the prophet Isaiah says, we can begin to see the "great light". I feel I always need this kind of preparation to more meaningfully understand and celebrate God wrapping himself in our human flesh. It was the beginning of many pains and sorrows for a God who drew close to his troubled and wandering children. Only in a time of reflection can this idea really sink in and prepare us for the birth of the Christ.
Even so, Advent's power is affirmed for us now as we reel from the latest demonstration of human brutality, insanity, and evil. We cry, we cry out "why?", we respond with disbelief and anger, and resolve to bring the moral high ground once and for all to a discussion of causes behind such horrible carnage of the innocents. But this will all be for naught...all a great waste of time and passion if once again we forget the reason for this season. We are truly crying out to God to come and save us as we wander like frightened and lost children in the dark. We light the candles of love, hope, and support, along with the vigils for the loved and lost. May these same candles, like the candles of Advent and the candles of recently observed Hanukkah burn brighter, and brighter so that we are not lost in the darkness and forgetfulness, but truly turn to God for the light... the light of the world which indeed no darkness can overcome!