The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
Upon them a light has shined.
Of the four candles of Advent (hope, light, joy, and peace), light carries with it the fewest “warm fuzzy” feelings: because, of course, light, in addition to providing wisdom and guidance, showing us the way of life, also brings about the revelation and conviction of sin.
And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.
It clashes emotionally with the joyful and triumphant songs of Christmas to remember one’s sins, and to repent and confess with sorrow. But the lamentation and the confession are necessary to prepare one’s heart for the fullness of that joy and the glory of that triumph; it is impossible, I believe, to truly resonate with the chords of grace and wonder that resound at the birth of Christ while attempting to hide from the light He brings as He comes.
That is one of the roles of Advent – to help us prepare our hearts for His coming – and this candle, this week, presents our choice to us in sharp relief: we have committed sin, and held on to evil, and wandered down paths of destruction; will we turn and repent in the grace He extends us, or will we choose the darkness over the light of life? Personally, my need for this preparation, this repentance, has shown its face in countless little ways: in my focus on my own interests over the needs of others or the responsibilities I have to my family, and in the sharp divisive wounding power of my words in my impatience or carelessness. His light, coming into the world, coming into my life, shows me the little acts of selfishness and callousness that I may have otherwise slipped past obliviously, and that is undeniably comfortable. But it provides me the opportunity for repentance and reconciliation, for praising His grace as I deepen my reliance upon it, for turning back to the light again, and those are equally undeniably good things.