Scripture – Isaiah 2:1-5
This time of year we are in, it’s an in between time.
Once the sun sets, it’s hard to tell 5pm from 7pm from midnight.
It is still technically fall and yet later this week it will be 15 degrees and snowing.
Somehow, Thanksgiving both came out of nowhere and feels like it was a month ago.
For students and teachers, the end of the semester is simultaneously too soon and forever away.
This time of year is an in between time, a time of alreadies and not yets. A time of waiting. Even in our church year, Advent is a season of already and not yets, of in betweens. Advent comes from the two latin words ad + venire, to come, which forms the word adventus meaning arrival. Advent is a season focused on the arrival of Christ. We await the birth of Christ on Christmas, a birth that already happened just over 2000 years ago and that happens every day all around us. We also wait for Christ to come in final victory, for God’s kingdom of love that is here now in part to reign in full. Already and not yet. In between. Advent encourages us to use this time wisely and offers us invitations and directions. In the midst of this in between, our scripture today invites us to ask ourselves, by what light are we journeying? What light illuminates our path and guides the journey of our life?
Have you ever tried to move in pitch blackness before? I was on a field trip once in elementary school. We traveled to an underground cavern system and at one point, the guide turned off all the lights. He had made sure we were safe, standing still and on very flat ground, but when the lights went out, it was like nothing I’d ever experienced. It was disorienting and I started to doubt what was up and what was down. Thankfully, they didn’t leave us too long in the dark, but that time made an impact. And I know, I know, if even a pin-prick of light had appeared in the middle of that cave I would have been drawn to it no matter what it was or where it was. It makes me sympathize with creatures in the deepest depths of the ocean that get drawn in by the false light of the angler fish, which dangles a light on an appendage and snatches any fish that get close enough.
What light illuminates your path and guides your life’s journey?
It is a powerful question to ask because every day, something is guiding us. We are not puppets, God made us to have free will, and our decisions are shaped consciously and unconsciously by a myriad of forces. Ideally, our values and faith would be our primary guide. Ideally, grace and love would guide how we react to different situations, how we respond to friends, family, coworkers, it would shape our actions, our choices. However, I think we all know that other things provide guidance as well. Instead of our highest values, some days we journey on a path lit by our deepest fears. Sometimes, the lights illuminate the paths before us are anxiety, insecurity, struggle, addiction, doubt, all-consuming grief, unhealthy expectations. Whether we recognize them or not, things do guide us, and our scripture today offers us an alternative to those shiny, distracting paths.
Amidst whatever forces vie for your attention, it says, despite the other illuminated paths that draw you in, come walk in the light of the Lord. Come, walk in the light of the lord. Come, walk in the light of the Lord. The light of the Lord is defined by presence, by Emmanuel, God with us, a light that does not abandon us. The light of the Lord is defined by Christ’s life, who sought justice, who served others, who loved neighbor, who brought us the power of self-extending love. The light of the lord offers peace instead of violence, bitterness, resentment, and hatred. The light of the Lord guides us in ways of comfort and strength. Come, walk in the light of the Lord down paths of forgiveness, resurrection, redemption, and new life. The paths lit by the light of the Lord are paths of abundant, fulfilling life, and walking in the light of the Lord is not always easy. Once we get down to it, we may recognize how unhealthy and damaging forces have been guiding us for far too long. Walking in the light of the Lord may involve acknowledging and unlearning things our families or cultures or society have taught us. It may involve therapy, journaling, medication, meditation, but I promise you, I promise you, it is worth it. 2000 years ago, God came down not in a neat, clean, tidy package but in the midst of our mess, in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of an occupied land ruled by an oppressive empire. God’s light brings hope and joy and challenges unhealthy patterns, all while setting us free and giving us rest. When the light of love and peace guides your life’s journey, you see yourself and the world around you as God does, as beloved, created, worthy, and never beyond redemption.
This year, take advantage of Advent. Make time to look at your life, get a sense of what really shapes our days, our decisions, our actions, and our reactions. In this in between time, Advent invites us to lead a self-examined life and to know that whatever we find, whatever we see, whatever we encounter, God’s invitation and presence always remain. Come, walk in the light of the Lord. Come, walk in the light of the Lord.