Though originally used to describe Thanksgiving I think Lydia Maria Child’s words apply equally well to Advent:
Over the river, and through the wood—and straight through the barnyard gate, We seem to go extremely slow, it is so hard to wait!
For almost two-thousand years now the Church has been waiting, waiting for the appearance of Jesus and the day when God will restore creation. The day promised by Isaiah in 2:1-5, the day when the world would congregate at God’s holy mountain. The one lonely candle lit today reminds us that the dawn is breaking over us. We see this candle and remember that in Jesus’ resurrection the new day is coming, and with that new day our salvation in full. This is wonderful news, but, it is a little like being out at night with one small light cracking in the heavens. I have spent enough time in the woods to know that when it gets dark the forest becomes a frightening place, the darkness conceals threats to life and limb. There are places to trip and fall, there are animals who would attack you, and there other hazards which make it unsafe to travel through the darkness. But, when that first light of morning breaks over the horizon it builds confidence. Finally, the day is dawning and those in the woods can make preparations for setting out on their way.
Our world is stuck at this point we live in a world of wars and violence, of turmoil and persecution, a world epitomized by chaos, or at least that’s the way it seems sometimes. And that is exactly what Jesus said we would see prior to his arrival (Matt. 24). Yet, off in the distance, the first pinprick of light has dawned on the horizon, perhaps not much more than the candlelight, but, it is there. The darkness may be still close around; but, Christ’s resurrection is that first pinprick, that first glow telling us that the night will be over soon. Now there are two options, the first is to focus on the darkness, to say, “it is still night.” To sit and do nothing, focusing on the potential dangers of the world the wars, pestilence, and persecution. Or, we can prepare ourselves for the fast approaching daylight. Isaiah told us what daylight brings, God’s glorious day of judgment on the world when humanity will collectively disassemble the implements of war and live in God’s great peace. We will walk on paths bathed in light.
Throughout the New Testament Christians are warned to keep watch, and make ready, just like the hiker who starts breaking camp at the first signs of light, so we must be preparing ourselves for the coming daylight of Christ. We must live by Paul’s words in Romans 13:11-14: “Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”
Advent is that time when we refocus on putting our lives in order, and being ready when Christ comes again to renew the earth. This is a time when we begin with humble reflection and confession. When we recommit to seeing that small flicker of light and reminding ourselves that darkness DOES NOT rule. I can see the glow on the distant horizon morning is almost here, let’s start getting ready.