advent hope

When You Can't See in Front of You

11:10 AMHeather

There is no comfort and peace like climbing into your own bed after a few days away and a long day of traveling. And so, I fell into my cozy bed Saturday night, content to be home and grateful for memories of an unbelievable Thanksgiving trip to New York City. All was well in my world.

Until beeps suddenly sounded as our power went out. The house was suddenly eerily quiet and completely dark. So very dark. The pitch black that happens rarely in this electronic, digital age where devices glow all night long as they charge.

It was startling. And then scary. Our daughter woke up and was afraid. I could hear her, but it was so completely dark that I couldn't sense where she was. I cautioned her to stay away from where I stood near the top of our staircase. Or so I thought I was.

Our entire street was having a power outage. A fear gripped me suddenly, causing me to nearly panic. I do LEAN toward the dramatic, so my mind whirled to that doomsday television show where the power worldwide went out and anarchy reigned. Had I really just returned from flying under a worldwide travel alert, walking through a heavily guarded city with SWAT teams strategically placed, only to have something happen at home?

So basically, my heart rate went wild as I contemplated all sorts of terrorist attack theories and end of the world scenarios.

All because of the dark.

The black of dark with no sign of light. That hides any sign of life. And suffocates hope with a fear that grips you.

It's where so many are stuck today. In the terrifying pitch black. The dark days of the soul where life is turned upside down and nothing but fear and despair reside. 

The dark and bleak and horrific day of burying a treasured son, as a high school friend endured yesterday. The loss so overwhelming that your heart wanders if it will ever feel joy again. The blackness of grief enveloping you in its tight and gruesome hold.

The frustrations and agony of hard times and struggles and mental health battles. Chronic pain that plagues you day after day. Or deep wounds suffered at the hands of another calloused person. Wrestling matches for clarity when demons of mental illness taunt you relentlessly.  

We see the darkness. We see the dimness and dark circles around the eyes of those who struggle. The homeless on the street, holding a cardboard sign. The panicked eyes of the refugees, fleeing their war torn home, packed into rubber boats, with nothing but the clothes on their back. The cries and anguish of those who mourn the atrocities of hate filled extremists.

If we look closely enough, we will gain the discernment to note the oppressive darkness that those we know are battling, carefully hidden behind their plastic smiles. 

There is no hopelessness worse than the darkness that pervades struggling souls, crowding out any hope or joy or peace. It wreaks havoc, creating chaos and fear and an oppressive sadness.

And yet, there is good news. There is a tiny pinprick of light that will become a floodlight if we look for it, if we seek it, if we can keep crawling toward it. It is at the very forefront of what this season is all about.


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

Advent begins. When we celebrate the most glorious and miraculous act of God's faithfulness. When we eagerly anticipate the what might be, as we languish in the what is now.

For 400 years, God's chosen people lived in darkness. They lived with the certainly dwindling hope of the prophecies. As God was silent. The quiet shouting out louder than any spark of promise for something new and better that would change it all. 

We all live in these in-between places. Where we think we know what God might have for us. When we dare to entertain the possibilities. And we believe its on its way. 

But then.

Silence.

And darkness. Not just places where we have to squint our eyes to discern shapes. But a black darkness that grants us no insight, not even a shadow of where we are or where we might go. Just the blackness engulfing us. Suffocating our dreams. And killing our anticipation for change.

Although we cannot see our hand in front of us in these dark times, in those dark days of in-between, hold steadfast to this truth.

God sees. And the darkness is not dark to him. It is bright as the sun. Because he sees. When we cannot see him through the black and the fog and the despair, he can certainly see us. Though we may stand in the questioning and the anguish of what feels like hundreds of years of waiting for the rescue, it is indeed on its way.

Just as Isaiah said it would be. 

That is what Advent is all about.

That God in his heaven dared to break through the filth and muck and fragility of mankind to send his son Jesus. Emmanuel. God with us. To change all that had been and all that happened and all that caused fear into a glorious hope everlasting.

A hope that endures. A hope that is an anchor to our soul.

That there is no place on earth, no pit too deep, no sorrow too overwhelming, no struggle too difficult, for God to enter in and be the light than chases away all darkness.

You may go about your business today, as the shepherds did back then. Tending to their flocks in the dark of the night. But then. It happened. And the wonder of this angel's announcement still throws out a life line to all those drowning in darkness.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord!"
Luke 2:8-11
  
Although you may be going about your life, in the night and the dark and the desperation, there is a GLORY that breaks through and the fear it causes is a reverent, hope-filled fear. A glorious reckoning to see that we are but man and we have a God who still shows up in our dark nights.  

This is the good news of Advent.

There is a light. 

In every dark place. In every struggle. In every wound. In every fear. In every pain. In every circumstance.

Christmas tells us that he is the light to pierce through every darkness. He is the God who shines into our weariness and gives us reason to rejoice. Because God came near. To crush the head of the serpent who dared to strike his heel. 

A baby. Wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

With one mission. One purpose.

To save the souls of mankind. To pay the price. To cover the debt. To enter even the darkest place because the tomb of death couldn't hold him.

And the star at the top of the tree reminds us. 

That God pierces the long nights of our lives with the unbelievable hope of a Savior who promises that all that we endure in this life, we never do so alone. And no situation, no matter how bleak, can ever blot out the Light of the World.

Advent.

When we can look back to a people who waited for 400 years for the promise to come true. Generation after generation. They clung to the hope of their God whose word is always true and whose promise is always sure.

It didn't look like they thought it would. In fact, many of them missed it. Because he was not a conquering warrior, but a humble baby born in the lowliest of places. 

And his death would turn the noonday sun to a darkness like the night.

But his resurrection broke through with a brilliance that lights the darkest corners of our lives, offering a glimpse of hope. A truth that the Light has come.

And in him, there is no darkness. 

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