“Come Darkness, Come Light”

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Updated November 28.

One of my favorite Christmas carols is one that Ryan introduced to me a few years back at a Christmas Comfort service: Come Darkness, Come Light – written and performed by Mary Chapin Carpenter.

It’s really more of an Advent, than a Christmas Carol. It deeply echoes this solstice season we are in.

Come darkness, come light
Come new star, shining bright
Come love to this world tonight
Alleluia


Come broken, come whole
Come wounded in your soul
Come anyway that you know
Alleluia


Come doubting, come sure
Come fearful to this door
Come see what love is for
Alleluia


Come running, come walking slow
Come weary on your broken road
Come see the Lord and shed your heavy load
Alleluia

Take note of the alleluias. It’s important to remember and to hang onto them.

San Carlos United Methodist Church

It is a cliché but true: There is no light without the dark. So, first let’s peer into the inky black. Let’s do it together as people of faith.  Rail at it. Shake our fists at it. Confront it. Breathe and pray.

First.

Chuck just had very scary and very successful open heart surgery and is about to go to a step-down unit at INOVA Fairfax. Awake and aware now, he had no idea he had been there eleven days! The beloved shepherd of our flock is getting the best of care, and on his way to health and healing. Another ten days or so in the hospital, he has a long road ahead. But together gratefully we carry the load of our shared ministry at Emmanuel – so Chuck can do the hard work of getting well. We love him and we miss him. 

So, let’s pause for some silence, breathe and pray for him.

Second.

2020 – excuse the expression – sucks. This Thanksgiving was like no other in our lifetimes. Nine months in, the pandemic rages out of control and it has taken a horrific toll. If we were to ring a bell for each of the 270,000 souls lost, it may take a thousand years. If you were to write each name on a sticky note it would climb the Statue of Liberty 47 times. If you were to populate a city with the dead, Richmond Virginia would have disappeared. Wear your mask. Keep your distance. Work from home if you can. Stay vigilant. Thanks be to the scientists, vaccines are on the way. 

So, lets pause in silence. Breathe and pray.

Third.

Our neighbors have never been in such dire need. The pandemic has laid bare the basic inequalities in our country and has reeked havoc on the economy. Unemployment is high. Underemployment, also high. Hunger and food insecurity are on the rise. Eviction notices are coming and unemployment and small business assistance are nowhere in sight. Faith communities like ours are doing everything we can to breach the gap: Alive food pantry, Meals on Wheels, Bag Lunches. But it’s not enough. As a nation, we need to rise up and do more.

So, let’s pause in silence. Breathe and pray.

And that’s a WHOLE lot, so again, let’s pause in silence, breathe and pray.

The deep dark of winter is a universal and ancient experience. Neolithic humankind – just as brilliant as we are – navigated by the stars and planted crops by the movement of the sun. When winter came and the world plunged into black inky darkness – they knew the light would return.

There is a place on our planet, older than Stonehenge, older than the pyramids, that enshrines the wisdom of these ancient people. Newgrange, in the Boine Valley of Ireland.

It is one of the holiest places, one of the most sacred of places that I have ever been.

It is a 5000-year old passage tomb built high on a hill. It’s exterior glitters with quartz stone and its perimeter with huge stones – carved in swirling patterns. The interior corridor is built of corbelled rock – meaning stacked precisely with no mortar at all.  Built by a Neolithic tribe, it is estimated it took four generations to complete. With no written language. No drawn-up plans. And the rock being brought from miles and miles away.

And it is perfectly aligned with the winter solstice. 

Visitors are treated to a simulation of that remarkable day.

You squeeze down the narrowest of paths. It is as dark as dark can be. I cannot see my own hand in front of me. The path ends in a burial chamber. Our group huddles together in the dark, the guide flips a switch and the return of the sun begins.

You see a light piercing the roof box at the entrance. The light slowly dances down the path and then fills the chamber – so bright you can see all of the carvings along the walls. It is thought that the basins in the chamber held the bones of their ancestors. The light lifts them and just as slowly as it came, it departs down the path returning the departed souls to the source of their being. 

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5

A kind of resurrection, we Christians know that this is true. And our very own solstice is on its way.

The dark difficult days of Chuck’s illness are quickly receding to the light of healing and health. God praise modern medicine!! The surgeons have given him a new aortic valve and praise be his temperature is practically normal! He has his favorite chair and his best friend by his side at the hospital. Maybe Max will be able to visit him soon. We pray, that in God’s good time, he will return to us healthy and whole again. 

Let’s pause, breathe, give thanks and sing a silent alleluia!

This Christmas, like this Thanksgiving, will be strange indeed. But Jesus is coming, no matter what. Trim the tree. Hang some lights. Bake cookies. Wrap a few presents. Donate as much dough as you can to fund those organizations who help our neighbors in need. Come to Cocktails & Carols and wear your crazy Christmas sweater.

Let’s pause, breathe, give thanks and sing a silent alleluia!

And there are three vaccines: Moderna, Astra Zeneca & Phizer – that are more than 90% effective. Vaccines becoming vaccinations in real people’s arms by the end of the year:  first given to the exhausted heroes on the front lines and those most at risk and then rolled out to the rest of the world in 2021.  Keep wearing those masks. Keep keeping your distance. It seemed impossible but there really is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Let’s pause, breathe, gift thanks and sing a silent alleluia!

Come darkness, come light
Come new star, shining bright
Come love to this world tonight
Alleluia
, Alleluia, Alleluia

Spirituality The Episcopal Church

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The Rev. Joani Peacock, Editor for Emmanuel Voices: A Parish Blog

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