Darkness, Light and Advent

Today’s post comes from Erin Pacheco, Savior’s Music Director:

Advent is almost upon us.

This is my favorite part of the church year. There is something frantic about the commercialization of Christmas — its many layers of consumption and overconsumption, its demands upon our time and money, the way it is seemingly thrust upon us earlier every year. There is a restlessness to the way our culture anticipates and celebrates Christmas. It is easy to get caught up in the rush and desire for all that is shiny and yummy and happy. It is easy to mistake this for joy.

Advent as liturgical practice and as frame of mind invites us into a different way of being this time of year. Advent help us detox from commercial Christmas so that we might better celebrate the coming of Christ.

Advent is the beginning of the liturgical Cycle of Light. Through Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany, appropriately set in these longest, darkest days of the year, we will remember that Jesus is the light of the world.

A people walking in darkness have seen a great light.

A light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of God is upon you.

We will light candles. And while they are lit, we will sing:

The Lord is my light, my light and salvation; in God I trust, in God I trust.

We will not pretend that it isn’t dark. We will not try to cover up our sadness with tinsel and shiny paper. We will be who we are: exiles longing for home, longing for shalom, longing for God with us.

O come, O come Immanuel and ransom captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile here.

Come thou long-expected Jesus, born to set thy people free.

We will spend some time here. Even though Christmas carols have already been on the radio for weeks, in worship we won’t jump right into singing the manger scene and the angels’ songs just because it is December. Israel waited centuries for the coming of Messiah. So we too will wait — whether with eager hope or agonized cries of how long? — for his coming.

And when we pray for the needs of the world, we will join in the cry of the church through the ages:

Kyrie eleison. Christe eleison.

“Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy.”

Singing the Kyrie in Advent, as we do in Lent, highlights our need for a Savior. All is not the way it’s supposed to be. Just beneath the surface of the season’s festivities lie a host of hurts and griefs and anxieties.

Come, Lord Jesus, come.

Advent makes space for our whole selves. Even as the prevailing culture rushes toward Christmas, in Advent, there is a quieting. A centering. A small but real hope, growing with the light of each additional candle, that love really is coming to set things right. To make all things new.

My heart will sing of the day you bring; let the fires of your justice burn.

Wipe away all tears for the dawn draws near and the world is about to turn.

This is the start of the story, the start of the church year. In Advent we begin again to tell the story of our salvation. The story of our need and God’s gracious response. The story that begins in darkness and ends in resurrection light. A great reversal is coming. A baby is coming. A king is coming. And all will be well.

As we pray at the Easter Vigil —

O God of unchangeable power and eternal light:

Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery;

by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation;

Let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up,

and things which had grown old are being made new,

and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.