Today is the first Sunday of Advent. Advent means “coming.” These are the four Sundays, the 24 days we wait expectantly for Christmas. Waiting for Jesus to be born in Bethlehem. Waiting for Christ to come again.
In Advent the days are shorter and the nights are longer. Almost just as much dark as light from morning to night.
People for thousands of years have watched the sun and the moon and the stars. They understood the turning of the seasons of the year. And they knew on the shortest and darkest day of the year in December that the sun would return. They brought evergreen branches into their houses and turned them into wreaths. They did not have electricity so they lit candles to bring light and warmth into their cold houses.
There is a book I read to my children at bedtime that reminds me of this. I racked my brain trying to remember what it was called. I googled “children’s books night” and still could not find it. But I do remember the story.
Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, there was a little old woman who lived in a cottage in the forest. Before electricity, before light bulbs, even before cars.
And she had her days and her nights upside down.
She stayed up all night trying to chase the dark away.
She tried to wash it off of her windows.
She tried to dust it off her shelves.
She tried to sweep it out the door and mop it off her floor.
She took out her pots and pans and banged them together to scare the dark away.
She shouted at it and argued with it.
She even swatted at it with a fly swatter.
But nothing she did could chase the dark away.
She was SO tired she would fall down on her bed exhausted and go to sleep. And she would sleep all day. And she missed the morning light. And she would wake up when it was dark. And again she would sweep and mop and dust and swat and shout and try to chase the night away.
She did not know that the sun would return.
So, now it’s winter and our days too are getting colder and shorter. We make wreaths from evergreens and decorate them with four candles. An Advent Wreath, we light each week.
So one little flame. Two little flames. Three little flames. Then four. Four candles burning with warmth and light.
We light them because we know the Son is coming. Not just the sun in the sky but the Son of God. We call him Jesus.
And Jesus helps us to chase the dark away. The darkness of sadness, the darkness of loneliness, all kinds of dark things Jesus turns to light and joy.
So, good night dark. Hello light!
Jesus our Lord will chase the dark away!
The Rev. Joani Peacock, Editor for Emmanuel Voices: A Parish Blog