LIGHTING THE CANDLE
The sun shall no longer be your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to your night; but the LORD will be your everlasting light and your God will be your glory. Your sun shall no more go down, or your moon withdraw itself; for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended.
Advent of 1864 was a dark season for American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. In his Cambridge, Massachusetts, home he was nursing the crippling wounds of his son, Charles, who had been seriously injured in a Civil War battle in Virginia. While Longfellow was caring for his son, he was grieving the recent death of his beloved wife Fanny. She had suffered severe burns from an accidental fire, dying from her injuries the next morning. Because of his own injuries Longfellow was unable to attend Fanny’s funeral, conducted on their eighteenth anniversary. Because of burns he suffered trying to save his wife he was unable to shave and grew his trademark beard. It was such a dark time that Longfellow had been unable to write poetry.
Then came Christmas Day with all the church bells of Cambridge ringing joyfully. Longfellow sat alone at his desk brooding; then, taking up a pen, he poured forth his despair:
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 sat for a long time going over and over the words that had flowed forth from him. With bells echoing, he agonized over the pain of the past year, worrying about the dark time for his family and his country. Then, Longfellow turned his thoughts to the Lord, to the Almighty’s plans for the world. Longfellow picked up his pen again 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, the prophet Isaiah turns his thoughts beyond his troubled times to behold the Messiah’s coming reign over the world. At one of the darkest times in Israel’s history the Lord gives a clear vision of the future: “for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended.”
There is much darkness in this and every Advent. Like Longfellow, we might feel the world’s troubles mock our song of peace on earth and good will to all. But as we turn our thoughts to the Lord, we see that He is coming and He will set right our broken world. As Isaiah says, the “days of mourning shall be ended.”
PALMS DOWN/PALMS UP
Gracious God, sometimes we get discouraged by what we see happening in our world. Sometimes it seems that the darkness is winning and we are fearful about the future. Fill us today with the assurance that you are always with us and that you will lighten our darkness. We know that the “wrong shall fail, the right prevail”, for Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory! Amen.