Jesus says, “in those days…sun will be darkened, moon will not give light, and stars fall from heaven, and heavenly powers shake.”
Those who know a cancer diagnosis, a foreclosure notice, a car repossession, those who’ve heard a doctor’s words, “I’m sorry, your mother, father, husband, wife, son, daughter, baby has died,” already know life “in those days;” already know too well those adventing days ushering in darkness of change. And change ushers in loss. A house burns down, a dream school sends a rejection letter, a torn meniscus pulls us from the field, our beloved says, “I don’t love you anymore,” these adventing events and words usher our collapsing world to its end. Aren’t these our advents, times of darkened sun, lightless moon, shaken heavenly powers?
And these usher question, after question, after question:
- Where do we go now along this darkening path?
- Without our wonted lights brightening our path, how will we find our way?
- Where is God in this darkness?
Something deep inside cries out, “Don’t just stand there, do something!” But what’s there to do? We know perfectly well that nothing’s to be done—nothing we might try finds, makes, or fixes our way back to the way things were.
We can’t unburn a house, can’t un-crash a car, can’t un-toll the death knell.
Things done can’t be undone. Advent’s God doesn’t un-do our life, yet Advent’s God is redeemer of all irredeemable things. God isn’t turning back time and un-doing our life, still Advent’s timeless God redeems our life.
Advent isn’t about life’s losses, for in the midst of these losses Advent defiantly points to a hope-filled future found in the One who, “was, and is, and is to come,” Jesus. Jesus is the fullness of “the hopes and fears of all the years,” every dark night and darkening sky’s light, when all joy seems lost the joy of joys, every prayer’s answer, the redemption of every collapsing world that advents its way into our life.
Jesus is God’s answer when our voices join Prophet Isaiah together as we brokenly, angrily shout to God, “O, that you would tear open the heavens and come down.”
Yet in total truth, God has torn open the heavens and has come down in Jesus, and faithful God, comes to join us in Jesus—so that smack dab in the midst of our losses we lack nothing as we await the revealing of Lord Jesus Christ.
And, in this in-between space, we wait between the used to be and the soon to be. As the Lakota say, “we are neither wolf, nor dog;” we’re somewhere in the middle—seeking some way out of painful in-between spaces.
Yet if we allow challenging pain of in-between spaces to teach us, we find we know so little, fail to see every option, truly control nothing, are not the “Great I am.” If we allow challenging pain of advent spaces to teach us, we rediscover that we are not our light’s Source, and may discover new ways to learn, to see, to hear, and to know—to receive anew that God comes to us in life’s adventing darkness.
We all face times when life collapses around us, when darkness covers our world; maybe when darkness covers our lives it’s our sign that Jesus is near—hope, salvation, healing, take shape in darkened lives. God meets us in darkness. God doesn’t leave us to darkness.
Further, Jesus never says to us, “Come in out of the dark,” does Jesus? Doesn’t Jesus prods us, “Keep awake,” because sleep is our enemy, not darkness? Sleep controls our lives when despair takes us, fear consumes us, anxiety rules us, entitlement triumphs over gratitude, self-sacrifice succumbs to self-comfort, safety overrules vulnerability, when cynicism eclipses hope. When these take hold over us, darkness settles around us, and we perceive ourselves to be God-abandoned, God-forsaken, so loss comes our way, numbing us to sleep.
In this space, we presume darkness means no more adventures come our way, our future holds no joy, nothing awaits us—why watch or wait for what isn’t coming anyhow? With dimming eyes, our hearts close, and we sleep. Our sleep joins us to the darkness, where neither seen, nor perceived, no longer alert, we no longer awaiting the One who comes as a thief in the night. With eyes given no opportunity to adjust, we give our starlight night vision no chance; we’d rather sleep in the darkness around us than trust Bethlehem’s starlight within us, a baptismal candle never diminished, nor extinguished, for darkness never snuffs a single burning candle.
The darkness of every advent cannot snuff the light of the Christ Candle ablaze, within us, and each Advent comes to remind us to trust the One alive, aflame within us, more than the dimming darkness around us. This is our watching, waiting, listening, being still time; when we learn to be present to every moment in our lives because of the darkness, not in spite of it. And there’s our Advent opportunity, perhaps the hardest of opportunities, to be present in life’s darkness. Besides, in some sense, isn’t seeking escape from darkness ostensibly seeking escape from God who meets us in darkness?
Hush and slow yourself. Be open to questions, not so quick with answers. Listen more than you speak. Wait expectantly yet have no expectations. For aren’t expectations ultimately premeditated resentments?
Isn’t this type of waiting surrendering hopes and fears to the One who enters through our darkness? And if this is our path, then doesn’t this waiting become our prayer? A prayer answered by God’s presence entering the darkness of life’s night, shattering it with a liberating light? Isn’t this the truth that causes us to sing, “praise the One who breaks the darkness with a liberating light?”
To this end—take up your adventing story of darkened sun, lightless moon, of falling stars, of heavenly powers shaken, and watch in stillness, wait in quiet. How come? How come? Because God “works for those who wait for him,” and God, “will strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Just you wait and see. Just you WAIT and SEE!