“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” ~Isaiah 9:2
At the end of the day, my soul is weary with weight. With a heavy heart, I lie down in deep darkness. Blackness envelopes me. Even the Moon has hidden his face. The brokenness of the world binds my mind with suffering, and no more than a cry can escape from my parched lips.
Sleep has vanished, dreams have vanished… Yet I live in a nightmare.
I toss and turn as I wait for dawn. Longing for the light that will scatter the fears of the night and fill my soul with song and hope. Waiting… Longing…
Centuries pass, and still no sign of light. There is no more distinction between day and night… All hope drains away.
Then, just as I feel the last aching moan shudder from my lips, a sliver of light touches my bed. Bright, golden light carrying the beautiful hope of a New Dawn. I marvel at it, relief stirring in my heart. Joy cleansing my lips. Awe filling every fragment, every molecule of my body.
As the shadows slip away, a voice seems to whisper, “Light has come at last.”
Advent is a season of waiting. A season of feeling the deep pain and brokenness of the world and longing for our Savior to arrive. People who suffer from Insomnia can understand this better than any of us. They know what it means to struggle through fear, time, and darkness, anxiously awaiting the arrival of Dawn. Like those living in Jesus’s time, they know the solace of Daylight’s first rays.
I love how this painting captures the yearning of the broken people, arms outreached to touch the Light. People of different races, genders, social classes, gathering around to glimpse the face of one of the most vulnerable creatures: a newborn baby. He does not rely on them; they rely on him.
Advent surfaces a constant reminder of what the world was like (and would be like) without Jesus. Instead of turning to the Light, these struggling bodies would turn to each other and the depraved pleasures of the world. With souls contorted by violence and suffering, relationships would sever, chaos would reign, people would sink into darkness and brokenness, unable to lift themselves from their holes of sin … On the whole, the world would be a very dark place indeed.
Yet, the bleakness of our world only magnifies the profound gift of God’s deep love.
The Coming, by R.S. Thomas, captures the utter desperation painted above. And the utter grace of our Messiah.
The Coming And God held in his hand A small globe. Look he said. The son looked. Far off, As through water, he saw A scorched land of fierce Colour. The light burned There; crusted buildings Cast their shadows: a bright Serpent, A river Uncoiled itself, radiant With slime. On a bare Hill a bare tree saddened The sky. many People Held out their thin arms To it, as though waiting For a vanished April To return to its crossed Boughs. The son watched Them. Let me go there, he said.
Our world aches and groans for a Messiah. Every drop of Abel’s blood, every stolen heartbeat, every orphan cry, every shed tear, every sigh of isolation… they all point to our inherent longing for a Saviour. One who can rescue us from the depths of our heart-shattering sin.
And through God’s love and grace, the prophecies of the past and the hopes of tomorrow are fulfilled. Because of that Child’s glorious cry on that cold, winter night, we can breathe in the freedom of His promises.
Finally, Advent is a time to listen. The noise and the distractions of the world so often draw our attention away from the object worthy of the utmost adoration: Jesus. Monotonous tasks and routines drain our wonder and can numb us to the sheer beauty of the Christmas story. Turn off the noise, slip into Mary’s shoes and draw close to Jesus… listen for his voice. Amid the bustle of the Christmas season, find moments to embrace the quiet and the comfort of God’s presence and marvel at the baby wrapped in love.
To quote Madeline L’Engle in her beautiful book Miracle on 10th Street, “Advent is not a time to declare, but to listen, to listen to whatever God may want to tell us through the singing of the stars, the quickening of a baby, the gallantry of a dying man.”
Because of the hope we have in Jesus’ birth, death, resurrection, and return, we can approach dusk and dawn with renewed hope and chorus: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel… ”
A few Advent treasures…
A beautiful rendition of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” from the Choir of King’s College.
One of my favorite non-carol Christmas songs! The lyrics are profound, and the singers fantastic.
- Pray As You Go (App) ~ A wonderful audio prayer app! I’m going through their Advent series, and I’m loving it!
- Miracle on 10th Street & Other Writings ~ Delightful collection of Christmas reflections by Madeline L’Engle. Short enough to finish, long enough to reflect upon. (Psst, you can get it for $1.99 on Kindle right now!)
What about you? What are your favorite Christmas traditions? Do you celebrate Advent? What is the most precious part about Christmas for you? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts!