The Days of Darkness (an Advent Article)

One of my favorite days every year is the Summer Solstice (June 21st), when the daylight hours are at their max for the whole year – when it’s almost 10pm and still twilight. Eight years ago, my family traveled around our ancestral Scotland in June. We were blown away that the daylight lasted 20 hours each day - it wasn’t until midnight that the sun finally slipped away! In contrast, at the soon-coming Winter Solstice, December 21st, daylight is at a premium. At least we are in full-throttle Christmas celebration mode by then, and too busy to realize how depressing that long darkness is.

After Daylight Savings expired a few weeks ago, our days plunged into darkness way too quickly in the evening. Even as I type this, it’s 5:30pm and dark out; it feels like it’s midnight and everyone should be asleep.

Of course, when we think of darkness, we tend to think more than just the physical absence of light; we also think of dark times, of moments in our life when the light of hope seems to have flickered out. Scripture shares several stories of dark times for God’s people. Not long after the fall of man when sin entered the world, society eroded to the point where violence controlled everyone, except Noah and his family. God purged that evil by sending a great flood to destroy civilization and start anew with Noah. Later, God’s chosen people, the Israelites, repeatedly chose evil instead of relishing the benefits of serving the one true God - and consequently, endured long, dark stretches of history where it seemed God was completely absent. They felt forgotten as dynasty after dynasty, including the Roman Empire, conquered the world and oppressed their nation under an iron fist.

Waiting in Darkness for the Light of the World

There’s an old saying, “it’s always darkest before the dawn.” Since I’m rarely awake at that time, I’ll have to take their word for it. But I have been in caves - where it’s pitch-black and you can’t see your hand two inches from your face. That’s darkness you can literally feel. It envelops you. You are desperate for light, even for the smallest candle to penetrate the darkness. In the midst of oppression and exile, the Israelites experienced a similar pitch-black darkness - and they too were desperate for light. But for hundreds of years, they waited and waited and waited, with only the faintest flicker of light to give them hope.

I don’t like waiting. Waiting is not fun. Any of us who have stared at our laptop when the internet connection is spotty, or have stood in long lines at the DMV or grocery store, or for more important things like a needed job or medical miracle - can identify with that frustration. But just before Jesus was born, Israel had endured a 400-year gap of silence from God. The world seemed at its darkest, and where was the promised Messiah? Where was the Light for our world?

Ten generations of Israelites had come and gone – waiting, without a word from above. Yet, God is constant. His plan is always perfect, and his timing is always right - and when it appeared to most that the Light of the world would never dawn, Jesus Christ was born.

This Advent season, we all can rest assured that God knows right where we are, what we’re going through, and what we need. Just like he sent the greatest gift of all time – his own Son, Jesus the Christ, at the appointed time - he will provide the light we need, even in our dark times. Advent is our dazzling reminder of this wonderful truth.