Column for December, 2017
In early November, we set our clocks back one hour. Before that, I could easily plan to go for a nice walk with my dog, Otis, bringing Isaac and Mary along when they were available, after supper. After the time change, it was getting past the time when Otis wanted to be outside. He’s older now and a little more opinionated, and perhaps a little more afraid of what lurks in the shadows, so he would really rather not go out after dusk. That means we have to get our walk in early, and it makes the whole evening feel a little bit more rushed.
In the season of Advent, which starts the first Sunday in December, we begin a time when we talk a lot about shadows and light. Many cultures and religious traditions have some sort of commemoration this time of year that celebrates the light that dispels the long nights. That is because here in the Northern Hemisphere, all of us have longer hours between dusk and dawn, and we need something – anything – to remind us that we do not always dwell in the darkness.
For us, we will celebrate the coming of the Light of the World at Christmas. We will repeat those words of miracle and hope which John used to open his story of Jesus’ life, ministry, death, and resurrection: “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” Before that Holy Night, though, we have the season of Advent, when we seek hope like that. We remember that we are dwelling now in the shadows of midnight, and we are waiting, some of us desperately, for a new day to dawn and a new creation to be realized, with the new heaven and a new earth God has promised for us after everything we know now is destroyed.
As we begin Advent this year, I was brought to some words from Howard Thurman, a 20th-century preacher, theologian, mystic, activist, and spiritual father for the Civil Rights Movement. We printed a series of Howard Thurman’s reflections during Advent a few years ago. The one that came to mind for me at this time is called, “Lord, Lord, Open Unto Me.”
Open unto me – light for my darkness.
Open unto me – courage for my fear.
Open unto me –hope for my despair.
Open unto me – peace for my turmoil.
Open unto me – joy for my sorrow.
Open unto me – strength for my weakness.
Open unto me – wisdom for my confusion.
Open unto me – forgiveness for my sins.
Open unto me – tenderness for my toughness.
Open unto me – love for my hates.
Open unto me – Thy Self for my self.
Lord, Lord, open unto me!
And I think that makes a good prayer for our Advent this year. As we continue to bear our griefs, face our challenges, and celebrate everything God is doing here, I wonder if all of us should put these words on our refrigerators or our bathroom mirrors or by our bedsides or wherever we can force ourselves to pray them every day. As we begin the season of reminding ourselves to be ready for God to re-make the world and for Christ to come again, I wonder if we can pray together for God to open to White Bluff Presbyterian Church the gifts of light, courage, hope, peace, joy, and all the rest.