Each Christmas season, a snippet of Scripture or a line from a hymn will worm its way into my psyche. This year it is the words of the priest Zechariah, sung to his son, John, who would be the Baptist. Zechariah has prophesied the coming Messiah and now describes his infant son’s future and proclaims the impact of the coming Messiah.

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

“The dawn from on high will break upon us…”

The dawn breaks in my mind’s eye like aurora borealis. Promised light in the darkness. Hope amid worry, fretfulness, despair, overwhelm. A horizon-wide, light-filled reminder that God is God. God is God revealed to us in the tenderness of an infant whose arrival moves shepherds and kings to leave their work to come and see.

This light breaks into the lived experience and reality of darkness.

A friend said recently: “It feels different. The world feels different.”

A colleague said: “We lost more people to COVID than to WWI and WWII combined. It took decades to recover from those wars. And for some reason we expect to bounce back from pandemic as if nothing happened.”

Both are admitting an important truth. We are struggling to admit when we are still struggling because we see reasons for hope all around us. We hesitate to ask for help when we think that everything should be fine.

But as the darkness deepens, our spirits catch up with the pace of our lives and remind us that the darkness invites us to some soul tending. The deep darkness of Advent reminds us that we are human beings, we grow weary and uncertain. We strive for “normal” seemingly against all odds. Assuming that our lives are supposed to look like something. But who decides what that something is?

As we move through Advent, sit in the darkness and breathe. Just breathe. Remind yourself, whether your life is swimming along just fine or you feel like you are barely holding it together, you are held tenderly by God. Tenderly and eternally, peacefully and powerfully, you are held. Luke reminds us that in God, we live and move and have our being. All of our being. Even, or perhaps especially, in the darkness.

How does a weary world rejoice? Maybe by meeting God in the darkness. Knowing that in God we find assurance in the promise fulfilled—the Messiah—who we know and worship, who breaks like the dawn from on high, giving us light and guiding us into peace.

In Spirit breath and holy darkness,

Pastor Chris