Advent Newsletter Excerpt | We Begin in Darkeness

Written by Alyssa Berkenpas, Worship Coordinator

We have arrived at the Christmas season. It may make you think of baubles and tinsel covering the tree. Sparkly lights and crystal-like frost covering the ground. Warm drinks beside a cozy fire. Perhaps even a magical winter wonderland. And while this is all good, this isn’t really where the church starts its Christmas season. We start in Advent – and Advent begins in darkness.

The first Sunday of Advent kicks off the entire liturgical year for Christians; this is our New Year’s Day. Every year we look again at the gospel story, starting with the birth of Christ. It’s a weird sort of paradox where we know Christ has come, and yet we spend Advent anticipating his birth. We don’t just read about it in Scripture as if it were simply a story, but we insert ourselves and enter into the story. In one of our past newsletters, I wrote about how we are not to be spectators in our worship but be involved and participate. This goes for the Advent story also. Everyone is a character in this story. We all long, we all yearn for the coming of Christ. For his redemption, his glory, and his holiness to arrive and make his dwelling among us.

“The longing of Advent begins in the first pages of the Bible” writes Tish Harrison Warren in her volume on Advent. Right at the beginning is the Fall and with it comes brokenness in our bodies, our lives, desires, relationships, in nature and society. Across the world and creeping into everything. Right at the beginning there is a call, a cry, for renewal, for redemption. This is where we start our Christian year. Here in the darkness.

Lately, as I am scrolling social media on my phone, I see more and more tragic news go by. Honestly, I struggle to really look at it. I want to keep scrolling and not stop to see children dying. People’s homes being destroyed. Mother’s tears as they hold their children. It’s too much. Instead of turning away though, Advent invites us to sit in the darkness and cry out, “How Long, Lord?”

Advent draws our awareness that we need Christ to come and continue to come, enter the darkness, and become our light. Advent allows us to really notice how Christ is continuing to work in the world. It surprised me as I was doing some reading on Advent, and looking at what Scriptures are used; it focuses on Christ’s second coming – “coming again in glory” as the Nicene Creed puts it. It is about making everything new again. “All our longings meet their end in Christ coming again, bringing healing, peace, joy and an unimaginable wholeness in his wake.” (Warren, Advent)

We live in a time between the times; Jesus died, gave us life, and promises to come again to restore the whole world. This world is dark, and we need to find the light. You may be familiar with the practice of lighting candles during Advent. If you’ve attended even one service here at Living Hope, you would have noticed that we practice lighting the Christ candle every Sunday. Lighting a candle in this way is a simple, yet profound act. It is a testimony to the power of light over darkness. Even the light of one candle in the darkness can bring us so much light. During this season, we add a candle each Sunday; we can see the light getting brighter and brighter until we celebrate the day when Christ was born.

As you enter this Advent season, how will you make space for the darkness? For, in anticipation of the dawn, we need to get through the night. We cannot simply ignore the groanings of the world. Rather we groan with all creation crying out:

O come, O come, Emmanuel.  

Ransom captive Israel. 

We mourn in lowly exile here,  

until the Son of God appear