Hope :: For the First Sunday of Advent


Isaiah 60:1-5

Get out of bed, Jerusalem! Wake up. Put your face in the sunlight. God’s bright glory has risen for you. The whole earth is wrapped in darkness, all people sunk in deep darkness. But God rises on you, his sunrise glory breaks over you. Nations will come to your light, kings to your sunburst brightness. Look up! Look around! Watch as they gather, watch as they approach you: Your sons coming from great distances, your daughters carried by their nannies. When you see them coming you’ll smile – big smiles! Your heart will swell and, yes, burst! All those people returning by sea for the reunion, a rich harvest of exiles gathered in from the nations!

Isaiah 9:2

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. For those who lived in a land of deep shadows – light! sunbursts of light.

Already, we are living in the days of the winter darkness. We wake up to starlight, the moon hangs overhead well into the day, and we pick up our children from school by the sunset, we eat by candlelight or lamplight every night. We curl up in blankets and we serve piping hot comfort food to each other. The days are often grey here, too, on the Pacific south coast. This was new to me ten years ago when we first moved to this area. A prairie kid by birthright, November days were a diamond blue light of sunshine, bright and hard, reflected off the first piles of snow, refracting and dazzling. We filled our souls up with that light before the sun began to set in the short turn of the days, yes it’s dark now but tomorrow it will be bright again.

Instead now I’m caught between the ocean and the mountains, so the days are grey and the clouds are often low. It’s not unusual to have the lamps on for the entire day, moving from a black night to a dark and grey drizzle of a day and back into darkness, always cold, always damp.

We’ve grown used to it, many of us even love it. We have acclimated to the darkness, redeemed it with books and candlelight and coziness and pots of soup. We move through the day with our shoulders hunched against the rain, our hoods up to protect our hair and our ears until it feels like we are moving underwater, the sounds of the street muffled and a wash of water at our feet.

We think we’re fine, we think it’s good, we think weather doesn’t matter that much to us, and we are used to it, after all there are parts of it that we love! we find each other in the darkness and we redeem it, baptize it with our imaginations, absolutely, but then…. Oh, then comes the day when the sun rises in the sharp brittle light of near winter mornings when there are no clouds in the sky.

Oh, on that day.

Light! Light!

Oh, look at that sunshine!

On that day, we fling open our blinds and we wash the windows from the inside, we sweep our floors because the light has shown us the dust of our comfort. We bundle up in our woolies and we stride out into the sunshine, grins on our faces. We go to the park and we walk with our hoods down no matter how cold it is. It’s always a bit colder without the clouds, sometimes the wind will take our breath but we stand out in it anyway. “How about that sunshine?” we crow to one another at the grocery store and the school pick up line and the office. “Oh, what a lovely day!” We call each other to meet at the playground or the walking trails. “You’ve got to get outside today,” we say coaxingly to the ones who hate the cold.

We are wide awake after the grey comfortable slumbers, we can see our breath and we can see the light, and we feel alive, alive, alive again. The light has swept away our torpor and our dull coziness, bracing us awake.

And then when the spring comes and the days grow longer and the clouds light altogether….well.

Then, in those days, we fling the windows wide open even though it’s still a bit too cold outside and the wind sweeps into our homes, the cold swirling into the corners. A few short months ago, this very temperature sent us running for our mittens and heavy coats, now after months of deeper cold, that number on the thermometer feels like a balmy day, worthy of t-shirts.

We feel a compulsion to clean and to sweep and to make our spaces sparkle like the light. We prepare our homes for the arrival of the light and the warmth like fancy people prepare their homes for big parties. Doesn’t someone have a bottle of champagne somewhere? We are all unbuttoning and unwinding and unfurling and then we are tipping our faces up to the light with our eyes closed against the brilliance, still seeing the light through our lids, feeling the promise of warmth and growth and life again.

So there is a metaphor for you.

This Sunday, light a candle named Hope at your table with your people because it is still dark outside.

But it won’t be night or dark grey days forever and right now, there are glimpses of the Kingdom still breaking through.

There is light enough by which to live: speak hope.

John 1:1-5

The Word was first, the Word present to God, God present to the Word. The Word was God, in readiness for God from day one. Everything was created through him; nothing – not one thing! – came into being without him. What came into existence was Life, and the Life was Light to live by. The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out.


This is the first part of a series of Advent Sunday night candle meditations. This coming Sunday, Christians all around the world – in churches and in homes and in refugee camps and on the streets – will light the first candle, the Hope candle, to open Advent, the traditional season of preparation for the coming of the Christ-child as well as the reminder that Christ is coming again.

All Scripture quotations are from the Message paraphrase. Image source.


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