First Advent: Walk in the Light of the Lord
Have you ever been in total darkness, pitch black darkness? Have you ever been somewhere that is so dark that you cannot even see you hand in front of your face? I have. As a college student I joined friends in exploring caves in the Catskill Mountains of New York. At one point we would all put out our flashlights and just feel the eerie sensation of total darkness. When we turned our flashlights back on we all experienced the relief of being able to see again. Total darkness is frightening.
We begin this Advent with a consideration of darkness and an appreciation of light. The first reading is from the Book of the Prophecy of God’s holiness, the Book of Prophecy of the Coming Savior, the Book of Isaiah. Isaiah realizes that the world is in darkness. But God will provide a light, a beacon actually, for people to find their way. That light, that beacon, will come from Jerusalem. A day would come when all the nations will say, “Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.” On that Day of the Lord, swords will be beaten into plowshares and spears turned into pruning hooks, for the light of the Lord would bring peace.
St. Paul alerts the Romans of our second reading and us to wake up because the Day of the Lord has begun. We are not in darkness any more. Therefore we shouldn’t act as people of darkness, with no direction to life, no purpose, no future. We shouldn’t be trying to hide our shallowness from ourselves in the deeds of darkness, instead, we should come out into the light of Lord.
In the Gospel reading, this year will follow Matthew, Jesus tells us to stay awake, and be prepared to allow light into our lives. We are warned that the people of Noah’s day were unconcerned about the light of the Lord and lost themselves in their own lives.
Many very fine Christian writers speak about last century as one of darkness. Certainly we could all go on and on speaking about the darkness of a society where the need for intimacy has been concealed by violence and sex. We could talk about the abortion holocaust and the brilliant, artistic minds that have been destroyed before they could be born. It is easy to speak about darkness when it is out there, but how about the darkness within ourselves? How often do we provide our own darkness because we are afraid of what the light of the Lord might reveal to us? If we are honest with ourselves, we would have to recognize that we would rather not know what new sacrifices the following of Christ will demand from us.
To the extent that we have let the desires of our flesh dominate us, be they sexual desires, the desire for material things, or simply our refusal to control our anger, to that extent we are in the night. To the extent that we get a control over ourselves, to the extent that we fight off our own selfishness and put the Love of God before all else in our lives, to that extent we are in the light.
We want peace in our world and in our families. We want the time of beating swords into plowshare. We want the poor to eat. We want the world to come out of darkness. We want an end of terrorism. We want an end of darkness. For these things to happen, we have got to come out of darkness ourselves. If we are basically selfish in our approach to life, if our main concern is the endless quest to please ourselves, then we are in darkness. But if we clothe ourselves in Christ, putting the determination to sacrifice ourselves for his kingdom as He sacrificed Himself for us, then the light of Christ will be our armor, protecting us from the way the darkness of the world tries to engulf us.
Peace in the world, the beating of swords into plowshares, does not start around a negotiation table. It starts in you and in me. During Advent we call the Lord to come. We prepare for this coming by seeking forgiveness for the times we have lived in the darkness.
May the season of preparing for the Lord, Advent, help us escape the darkness we inflict upon ourselves and lead us into the light of Christ's love.