Imagine living in darkness. Imagine living in our 49th state, Alaska, where there are 67 days of darkness this time of year. The shortest day of the year is Dec. 21, when there are only three hours of muted sunlight. Oh, how important those three hours must be just to see the light.
Even in the lower 48 states after three cloudy, cold, rainy days, we crave to see our sunlight. It sustains us. It lifts our spirits. It lets us see colors and beauty and even the mundane.
Scientists this month discovered “monstrous” new black holes in space described ironically as light-years away from earth. No light. Just all-engulfing gravity. Nothing escapes.
With our earthly sunrise, we may still stumble, living our lives in darkness, pressed down by gravity.
This kind of darkness lasts and lasts, not just the 67 days in Alaska. This darkness can last a lifetime. There are no sunrises.
Humankind may make its own light, but it is only temporary. The flame goes out. Humans cannot make the kind of light that lives.
This is why we observe Advent. We are reminded each year that the end of our darkness is coming. Advent means “coming” in Latin.
This coming of the Light is what the gospel writer John was talking about in his version of the coming of Jesus, the Messiah.
“What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (NRVS).
This light is not temporary: “The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out” (The Message/Peterson).
While the Elizabethan-age King James Version of the Bible may not be the most accurate translation, the connotation is clear: “And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”
Humankind 2,000-plus years later with all of our cumulative knowledge and technology still does not fully comprehend the significance and power of this Light shining in the darkness, a Light able to penetrate the black holes of our souls.
It is, however, your choice, even if you do not quite comprehend it.
This Christmas, choose the Light.
Choosing the Light makes all things new. Suddenly, there is refreshed understanding of why we have strands of lights on the eves of our houses. It is why we sing, “Arise, Your Light is Come.” It is why there is no fear of darkness ever more.
Our memories are short, however. So, we observe this coming, this Advent, this deliverance from the pull of the black hole of society’s gravity every year.
Our hope is renewed, we receive the gift of Light and life, and we have cause to rejoice.
JimMcNabb is an adjunct professor in humanities at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, and a deacon at the First Baptist Church of Austin. This column first appeared as an Advent blog on the FBCwebsite.