Every year I am impressed (even surprised) by how early it gets dark in Berlin in the winter months. Yesterday at 4:30pm, it was darker than it is at 9:30pm in the summer, and we still have two more weeks in which the daylight hours will grow even shorter! No wonder I have a Vitamin D3 deficiency!
Advent’s vigil (in the northern hemisphere) is characterized by an ever increasing darkness until we come to Christmas. The darkness of winter lends support to the theme of longing for Light evident in many Advent and Christmas carols.
O come, thou Day-spring from on high,
And cheer us by thy drawing nigh;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!
(Latin hymn, 9th century)
Light shining into darkness is the daily theme of every sunrise, the annual theme of every winter turning into spring. But these are no accidents of man-made clocks or calendars. The heavens themselves declare the glory of God. God promises, “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:22)
Light shining into darkness is also a major theme of the Holy Scriptures. The first recorded words of God are: “Let there be light.” (Genesis 1:3) John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus is the Word of God incarnate, the Light that came into the darkness of the world. (John 1:1-9) In the last chapters Revelation, we read that the heavenly city will have no need of the sun, for the Lamb is its light. There will be no night there. (Revelation 21:23; 22:5)
The truth behind the light-into-darkness metaphor of both God’s World and Word is the gospel of Jesus–the good news of God overcoming sin and death and restoring life to those who receive Him. St. Paul writes: “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)
As we look forward to the coming of Jesus– the Light of Christmas–may we also look forward to the Light of His glory in eternity.
Thus will I sing thy praises here
With joyful spirit, year by year;
And when we reckon years no more,
May I in heav’n thy name adore! Hallelujah!
(Paulus Gerhardt, 1653)