On this, the physically darkest day of the year, I am reminded that the world is full of darkness, but it is also full of the overcoming of it.
I spent a lot of time over the last several months (and years, let’s be honest) reading about the ways that the people who claim to be Christ followers have bickered and fought and shed blood and heaped abuse and generally been my definition of horrible people, ostensibly in service to the Kingdom.
This, as you can imagine, has put me in a mood. To temper myself from letting those pieces of history color my soul or my participation in the Church, I’ve also tried to spend a lot of time watching non-profit videos, talking to friends who spend their lives in service, listening to the ways many of you are teaching advent to your kiddos. Tried to be intentional in ways I love, and careful in how I view and talk about people I disagree with.
This dichotomy has been so good, so corrective for me, and so exhausting. I am wrung out of words most days, reduced to slumping on the couch while re-runs of Top Chef play merrily in the background.
This morning, however, as I thought about all the folks throughout history for whom the Winter Solstice is significant, I was surprisingly filled with hope. Love is love is love is love is love and hope is the engine upon which it thrives.Today is dark and full of quiet, part of nature’s reminder to us that we control so little, but there are hours of light. The trade-off remains, even if the balance is off. I can’t help but also think about the Festival of Lights and how that miracle was driven by a faithful hope as well, that maybe Yahweh would provide when all was bleak. Light is a holy theme in Judeo-Christian theology and I am always glad when Hanukkah and Christmas align closely.
In a few days, many of us are going to celebrate that love came down at Christmas, wrapped itself in skin, and set about making an example for us about what humanity should look like. We should protect the vulnerable, feed the hungry, love those who infuriate us, draw productive boundaries around our lives, and we are never meant to do it alone. We can’t. It simply doesn’t work that way.
So while I am still feeling like I’m in a perpetual state of grief, like that poem where someone runs their fingers over a globe asking where it hurts, I am also feeling hopeful. People are getting fed in Aleppo, even as they’re fleeing. Children in Philadelphia are getting warm coats, even if not all of them are. People are going to have tables to gather around this weekend, even if they eat most of their meals alone.
The tension of this time of year is that the world is full of darkness, but it is also full of the overcoming of it. Overcoming – an active and future verb. The work is unfinished, the darkness threatens to overwhelm and then someone else takes a deep breath, rolls up their sleeves, and says “not so fast” as they feed, clothe, and love and hope.
Hope that this small offering to the good of humanity will change lives, hope that tomorrow will be better, hope that their exhaustion will trade-off for rest at some point, hope that this work will reap fruits unknown, hope that they’ll build something that’ll outlive them, hope. Faith, Hope, Joy, Love; our four pillars of Advent, action verbs all.