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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Lighting the Candle

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.
Psalm 139:11-12

“I’ll just be glad when it’s all over”, a woman once said to me about the upcoming Christmas season. Her husband had died that year and she couldn’t imagine how she would make it through a Christmas without him. For her, and many others, the upcoming holidays turn into the hollow days. The empty chair at the table and one less stocking on the mantle break the heart. Elvis seemed to understand when he sang: “I’ll have a blue Christmas without you…” As the old carol says, we have now entered the “bleak mid-winter”.

These are days when many wish they could fast forward to the New Year. I know, because I’ve been there. Whether one is trying to cope with death, divorce, loneliness, unemployment, or trying to pay the Christmas bills, the holidays can feel dark.

In today’s Scripture text, the psalmist David tells of darkness in his life, that he likens to the “night”. For the psalmist and other biblical writers, darkness symbolizes death, the absence of God, and ultimate evil. All the terror and fright we felt as children when the lights went out, pale to what we feel in life’s darkest nights. We begin to doubt God, or that He even cares.

David imagines this darkness sweeping over and hiding him from God. He portrays the light, which is symbolic of God’s presence, turning to night around him. Everything is dark. This man who once faced down giants and routed armies now trembles in his dark night of the soul.

But David is resolved that while in the darkness he would not forget what he knew in the light. While he cannot see God in the darkness, he remembers that God can see him. No darkness that he feels can hide him from God’s light and presence.

One night a house caught fire and a little boy was trapped in his upstairs bedroom. His father stood on the ground below with outstretched arms, calling to his son, “Jump, I’ll catch you son! Jump!” But all that the little boy could see was the fire, the smoke, and the blackness surrounding him. Terrified the boy cried to his father: “But daddy, I can’t see you.” His father replied, “That’s alright, because I can see you!”

It is enough for David to know that God sees him in his darkness. The darkness through which David is passing is not dark to God.

David begins today’s text with what is his greatest fear: “Surely the darkness will hide me, and the light become night around me”. Then David counters his greatest fear with God’s truth: “the night will shine like the day”.

The Advent and Christmas seasons can feel like a dark night to some. God understands. The darkness will not hide us from God. God promises His children that they will smile again, and that “the night will shine like the day.”




Loving God, for some the Advent and Christmas seasons are difficult and dark. Help them to know that you can see us. We ask that your light and love break through the dark night. Help us in our listening, our gentle words, and understanding, to be light to those in dark places. Amen.

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