Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Advent Light: It's All the Rage

“O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!” (Isaiah 2:5)

How does this work for Advent?

"Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

Did you know that darkness cannot be measured, only light? So it is technically correct to say that there is no such thing as darkness, only the absence of light. If the world suffers, if there is pain, if there is hardship, it is not due to the presence of darkness – it is simply because there is not enough light.

It’s not that it’s dark, it’s just that there’s not enough light.

We can rage against the darkness all we want, but it will do no good - it's not there. Rather, rage against the dying of the light. That's what the prophets did. And do.

Rage is a great word. Though there is an element of violence associated with it, there need not be. Two of my favorite definitions are "furious intensity" and "burning desire." I also like it because it can be a verb or a noun - you can feel a "sense of rage," you can be "in a rage," and you can just plain "rage." Dylan Thomas's text exhorts us to a furious intensity to prevent the light from dying. It's about death, but it might very well work for Advent, too.

Think about how Advent, this season of light, comes as the hours of sunshine per day grow fewer and fewer for us in the Northern Hemisphere. Darkness arrives as we are sitting down to dinner these days. And it is almost as if we try to ward off this impending darkness by draping a few more strands of little bright sparks of color over the bushes outside, put some extra candles on the altar, twist a few cords around the trees. “You can try, darkness, but you’ll not have your say here!” we shout in defiance.

(Or as they might say in the land of Terabithia, “Nothing will crush us!”)

And as the season goes along, as the days get so short it seems like they are just getting started when all of a sudden they’re gone, as we get closer and closer to that solstice moment, more darkness than any other day of the year, just when we feel like we’re never going to see the sun again – the light of the world appears.

Announced with a shining star, Christ Jesus is born again to bring light into the world, to push back against the darkness and illuminate God’s joy, love, and peace where it flickers amidst a dark world of bitterness, hatred, and injustice.

One more strand on the bushes. Nothing will crush us. "Rage against the dying of the light."

Bring the light this season. Let your words, thoughts, and actions be another strand looped onto the branches of the bushes outside. Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.


John said...

I preached that lectionary passage, but I left out v.5 because it really seemed to be part of a separate pericope.

Donna said...

What a beautiful post, Andy. You even included my favorite poet. Thanks for the insight on darkness as "absence of light." I like the thrust of that, the way it calls us out of lament (which has its place, for sure) and into action.