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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Lighting the Candle

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 60:19-20

The Advent and Christmas seasons of 1864 were dark, despairing days for the American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. In his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, he was nursing the crippling wounds of his son, Charles, who had been seriously injured in a fierce Civil War battle in Virginia. All the while that Longfellow cared for his son, he was mourning the recent death of his beloved wife, Fanny, who had died from burns when her dress caught fire. Longfellow’s trademark full beard came from his inability to shave because of burns he suffered in trying to save Fanny. It was such a dark time for Longfellow that he was unable to write poetry.

Then came the day of Christmas, as all the church bells of Cambridge joyfully proclaimed the day! Longfellow sat alone at his desk and brooded, then began pouring his despair into verse:

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men!
And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth”, I said,
“For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Longfellow agonized over the words he had just written and the sound of the church bells ringing. Then slowly he turned his thoughts to the One that he knew gives true peace. He picked up his pen and continued writing;

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
‘God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.’

In today’s Scripture text, the prophet Isaiah pours into Hebrew verse the vision given him of Messiah’s coming triumphant reign. In the midst of Israel’s darkest days came the promise of the Lord’s coming: “the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end”.

There is much darkness in the world again this Advent season. Sometimes it feels that the sorrows of the world “mock the song” we are singing. Then we turn our thoughts to the One who truly gives peace. We remember that He has come and He is coming. And when we see Him, He will be our everlasting light, and our “days of sorrow will end”. That is His promise to us.

Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus! Amen!




Our Father who art in heaven. We see much darkness in our world today. Our hearts break for the violence, injustice, hunger, and ignorance. So we set our minds on you and pray that your kingdom come, and your will be done on earth as it is Heaven. Until that time comes, help us to shine as children of the light, and be your beacons of the Day that is surely coming. Amen.

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