So, each of the last few Christmas’s there’s been one part of the story and one Christmas song that has stood out to me and gotten stuck in my head and my heart. List night I realized what this year’s theme was going to be.
The theme of light and dark has been much in my mind lately. As I prepare for an Advent art exhibit centered on Light and anticipating the light of life coming into the world I have had my creative energy focused on light and darkness and the play between the two. I have also heard and come across this motif in much that I have been reading lately, from the Book of Common Prayer and the lectionary, to other more obscure sources.
But, God has been drawing me into this theme of light and darkness in a more personal way as well. Lately I have felt like I have been living in great darkness, longing for light that seemed distant and unattainable. I have been longing for light but truly was feeling discouraged and starting to feel like it would never come. Last night, God broke into my darkness with a small ray of light and hope. Through honesty, and heartfelt cries, through laying myself, riddled with doubt and anger and hurt, at the feet of Jesus, through others holding me up and fighting for me before the throne of grace, walls were broken down and hope broke in. All is not fixed, all is not finished, all is not healed, but I’m not fighting the surgeon anymore. I still feel like there is great darkness all around me, but I’m not pulling the covers over my head and making it darker, instead I’m peering out into the darkness and looking for the light that I really now believe is coming.
This theme of light in darkness made me think of the Star of Bethlehem – that is my symbol for this Advent. I feel like I need that star. I need light, but I don’t just need light for lights sake, I need guiding light. I need light that will take me somewhere, draw me somewhere. I need light that will take me to Jesus. I need light that will draw me into worship and deeper surrender to the real king. I need light that will guide me into a journey that will change me and make me wise, strong, healed and surrendered. I need light that will call me to give of all that is most precious to me that I might truly become all that is most precious to God.
There are many Christmas songs that mention the Star of Bethlehem, but for some reason O Holy Night and O Little Town of Bethlehem both stand out to me right now. (I just realized that they both begin with O – that O is always sung so sweetly, but to me at this time it feels more like a moan and a deep heartfelt groan and it seems fitting to begin there in that place of crying out O…).
Here are the lyrics for O Holy Night:
O holy night,
the stars are brightly shining;
It is the night of
our dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world
in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared
and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope,
the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks
a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees,
O hear the angel voices!
O night divine,
O night when Christ was born!
O night divine, O night,
O night divine!
Led by the light of Faith
With glowing hearts
by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star
Here came the wise men
from Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus
in lowly manger,
In all our trials
born to be our Friend!
He knows our need,
To our weakness no stranger;
Behold your King!
Before the lowly bend!
Behold your King! your King!
before Him bend.
Truly He taught us
to love one another;
His law is love and
His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break
for the slave is our brother
And in His name
all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in
grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us
praise His holy name!
Christ is the Lord,
Oh praise His name forever,
His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim
His pow’r and glory
And here are the lyrics for O Little Town of Bethlehem:
O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie.
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by;
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.
For Christ is born of Mary,
And, gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love.
O morning stars, together
Proclaim the holy birth.
And praises sing to God the King.
And peace to men on earth.
How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming;
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him,
still The dear Christ enters in.
Where children, pure and happy,
Pray to the Blessed Child;
Where misery cries out to thee,
Son of the Mother mild;
Where charity stands watching,
And faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks,
and Christmas comes once more.
O Holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in;
Be born in us today!
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Emmanuel!
Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord; and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night, for the love of thy only Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
May we live in anticipation of the Light and Life that only Jesus Christ can bring.
May we honestly wrestle with the darkness of suffering, the darkness of our world, the darkness of our own hearts, the darkness of the uncertain future.
May we allow ourselves to enter darkness and give freedom to one another allowing each other to be in dark places and to embrace the work that God chooses to do in the “dark night of the soul”.
May we speak truth to one another amidst our darkened states and call each other to hope and to move forward in darkness – not ignoring it and not denying it, but also not wallowing in it.
May we remember that though much of life is dark, though God even calls us to and draws us to dark places at times, we are not meant to live in darkness – we are made to live in light.
May we gently and with freedom and grace draw each other towards Jesus, for “In him was life, and that life was the light of men.”
May we come to truly know and experience the truth that Jesus spoke when he said, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.”
May we each experience the true light of God, Jesus Christ.
May we experience what it means to “live as children of light.”
May we wake up, rise from the dead, and may Christ shine on us.
May we experience a new season of Light in our lives and bring a new clarity of healing light to the world around us.
May we come to walk in the knowledge of the truth that we are “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that [we] may declare the praises of him who called [us] out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2)
Rejoicing in the journey –
This post is a part of the December Synchrogblog, so please check out what these other bloggers are saying:
Phil Wyman at Phil Wyman’s Square No More
Adam Gonnerman on being “In Darkness”
Lainie Petersen at Headspace
Jeff Goins is “Walking in the Light with Jesus”
Ellen Haroutunian finds Light is Coming
Julie Clawson walks through Darkness and Light
Kathy Escobar will Take a Sliver Anyday
Susan Barnes at A Book Look
Joe Miller thinks you can Discover Light in Darkness
Beth Patterson talks about Advent: Awaiting the Ancient and the Ever New
Liz Dyer says What the Heck
Sally Coleman muses about Light into Darkness
Steve Hayes with the Lord of the Dark
Josh Jinno with Spiritual Motifs of Darkness and Light
KW Leslie contrasts Darkness versus blackness
Erin Word writes Fire and Sacrifice
Photograph by Beth Stedman
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