The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1, 4-5)
Light shines at Advent, and when I get to it, I feel like it’s a lot like ‘coming home’. While I won’t be spending a Christmas holiday in the UK, I will nevertheless be with my very own family – a long line of people from the history of salvation and I’ll enjoy visiting them like my own parents and sisters and children.
I know this place and I know them. I know their story and I am comforted by the familiar: revelling in the story of old Zechariah struck dumb and young Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1 & 2). I’ll travel alongside star-gazers and shepherds in anticipation. And through fondness and familiarity, I’ll experience comfort and joy despite an altogether different Christmas festival.
This year has changed me and the world feels different, so I’m also excited by what I can’t quite imagine – how those characters will change the way I feel, and the ideas and reflections that will take flight even if I don’t board a plane. Nevertheless, there’s newness in the old familiar and the enveloping darkness.
Find light in the unknown
The days are ever shorter and framed by starlight in leaden skies. I notice the hyggeligt lights are up earlier this year, perhaps because many of us are feeling the bleakness of that darkness more than ever before.
We are living through so many unknowns: faces masked, stepping back from human interaction and touch, confined to our homes as we self-isolate and shield, and not venturing out.
Surprisingly, it is just when we know bleakness, darkness, and isolation that we also begin to know the light or at least to look for it – within and without.
Advent is the time of waiting through the unknown, holding onto the promises of God and discovering in the waiting that the light we long for is already within. God’s incarnation is here and now.
A story for the ages
Advent is about the arrival of Jesus into a world of poverty, pain and pandemics. For the world 2,000 years ago, as now, Christ’s coming generated a mixed response including anxiety, threat and expectation. And, as people in the global village, we know these feelings with acute sensitivity, even as we wait, in hope, for vaccines to appear.
When it comes, Christmas will feel different: a little pared down, a little more sober perhaps. Yet it will still remain the story of God coming down, and of ordinary people caught up in a divine drama that is the very hinge of history.
The characters of Christmas are invited to take part, as we are, seeking as we can, choosing as we do; pressured as we are. They are afraid, exhilarated and, in the end, grateful, awed and content.
Celebrate with us
I’m not sure exactly how you’ll celebrate Advent, Christmas and Epiphany. Some of it will be determined by circumstances beyond your control.
But this you may choose to do: open the virtual Advent Calendar at st-albans.dk and receive a surprise gift of a carol, poem, story, or scripture. Join in services online even if you can’t be in church in person. Choose to bring before God a person or situation close at hand or far away – and do so in gratitude or petition, struck dumb with wonder or set loose with praise.
And at home or from far off, may we hear the distant echo of the angels’ song: “Glory to God in highest heaven and peace and goodwill to all on earth!”
Happy homecoming and a blessed Christmas and New Year!