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Monday, December 5, 2011

Lighting the Candle

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn… The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end.
Isaiah 60:1-3, 19-20

Sometimes the true and deeper meaning of Advent is seen more clearly in the midst of life’s darkness and trials. Alfred Delp was a Catholic priest who was executed as a traitor for his long-standing opposition to Hitler and the Nazi regime. Shortly before he was hanged in 1945, Fr. Delp wrote about his Advent in his prison cell.

I see Advent this year with greater intensity and anticipation than ever before. Walking up and down in my cell, three paces this way and three paces that way, with my hands in irons and ahead of me an uncertain fate, I have a new and different understanding of God’s promise of redemption and release…..But just beyond the horizon the eternal realities stand silent in their age-old longing. There shines on us the first mild light of the radiant fulfillment to come.

God shines His light into life’s darkest corners. “Arise, shine, for your light has come.” Just as God at the Creation commanded light to shine into the darkness that covered the earth, so God commanded light for Fr. Delp’s dark prison cell: “Let there be light, and there was light.”

As it is ever the nature of the light to dispel darkness, so in today’s Scripture text God commands light for His people at their darkest hour. God’s people are languishing in exile in Babylon far from home, and struggling to believe that God still cares. They are left with only a memory of their ravaged homeland, and Jerusalem a smoldering ruin. As the darkness once covered the earth at Creation, so the darkness hangs heavy over God’s people.

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, God’s prophet Isaiah sees into the future and declares God’s promise of a new day rising. Isaiah announces that in their night of sin and judgment God will shine the light of His new day. Like Jerusalem glistening in the morning sun, so God’s people will shine with a glory not their own. His people will “arise and shine” and nations will come to their light and see the brightness of their dawn.

And so today, even in our darkest moments, God commands the light of Christ shine on us, and others see God’s light in us:

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us”

( II Corinthians 4:6-7).

Look! His light is shining! May all of us this Advent season, like Fr. Delp, see with greater intensity the true joy and meaning of these holy days.

As we gaze on Your kindly brightness.
So our faces display Your likeness.
Ever changing from glory to glory,
Mirrored here may our lives tell Your story.
Shine on me. Shine on me.

– Cliff Richard




Almighty God, Lord of light and life. We pray today for those we know and love who are in darkness: the darkness of sin, fear, guilt, addiction, and idolatry. Command the light of your life and love to shine on them. And in our own brokenness and struggle show the glory of Christ to others.

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