Rolling Back the Darkness

 

            Advent begins this year, and every year for that matter, not with a manger and shepherds and a silent night, but with the prophecy that God will make a powerful intervention in human history.  Today’s Gospel is once more taken from the apocalyptical section of the Synoptic Gospels (Mark, Matthew and Luke), this time from the Gospel of Luke.  It is one of the scariest passages in the Gospels.  “People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming.  The Son of Man will come on a cloud with power and great glory.”

 

            God will step in and re-create his world.  He will put an end to the exploitation of the poor and powerless.  He will punish those who have turned the things of the world into their gods.  He will make his presence known to those who think they have hidden themselves from his wrath.  His people are to stand straight, raise their heads, for their redemption is at hand.  They, we, are to pray for the strength to stand before the Son of Man.

 

            Tough stuff.  Not the stuff of Christmas carols. But this is the beginning of Advent, not Christmastime.  Advent speaks about preparation and transformation.  Preparation for the two comings of Christ, the first in Bethlehem and the second at the end of time.  And transformation, the transformation of the world each coming will cause.

 

            The celebration of Christmas was placed after the winter solstice, when the days began getting longer.  Advent, therefore, takes place during the darkest days of the year, when there is the least sunlight.  Advent is the season of hope because it signifies that the dark time will come to an end.  Hatred, racism, abuse of all forms, broken relationships, indifference to human suffering, these are part of the dark times of the world.  These abominations to God’s love must end, and we as Church and as individuals in the Church must work towards their downfall.  The transformation of the world from hatred to love is the continual work of the Christian.  The season of Advent reminds us of the work we must do all year. 

 

            We must fight against the darkness.  But where is this darkness in my life, in your lives?  What must be changed for me, for you, for us to be people of light, not darkness.  How can I, how can you, bring light to someone who is in darkness?  Is there a gesture we can make to help someone feel better?  Perhaps it might only be a smile, but that would be enough.  Perhaps a courteous note in a Christmas card to someone who probably won’t receive many cards this year.  Maybe we need to say “I’m sorry.” It won’t kill us, and there are few of us who are totally innocent in every argument.  Sometimes the most simple gesture on our parts can heal body and soul of someone whose world is in darkness. 

 

            Fr. William Bausch tells the story of six people who froze to death around a campfire on a cold, bitter night.  Each had a log they might have contributed to the fire, but each had a reason for not offering their wood. A homeless man would not give his wood because there was a rich man there.  The rich man would not give his wood because his contribution would warm someone who was, in his eyes, shiftless and lazy.  A woman would not offer her wood because she had had it with men, and there were men around that fire.  A Moslem would not give his wood because there was a Jew around the fire.  The Jew certainly wasn’t going to give his and allow another Moslem

to survive.  An African American decided he would strike a blow at those whose ancestors had enslaved his ancestors.  And so the fire died as each person withheld his or her wood for reasons he or she were sure were justifiable.

 

            The story was originally told in a poem that ends with these tragic lines:

 

            Six logs held fast in death’s still hand

            was proof of human sin.

            For they did not die from the cold without,

            they died from the cold within.

 

            If we are going to stand before our Savior on the last day, or on our last day, then we must fight against the darkness of the world and of our lives.  We cannot allow past hurts and present prejudices to destroy our opportunity to bring light to those in darkness.  We must allow God’s love to flow through us. 

 

            This is the work of the Christian. 

 

            This is how we prepare the way for the Lord.