For many of us, darkness is little more than a foil for the light; something to be feared, something to be endured, something to be avoided at all costs. And I get that.
Bad news that seems manageable at 2 PM feels catastrophic at 2 AM. A health scare that seems under control at noon feels life-threatening at midnight. And whatever that unassuming shape in the corner was at 10 AM, at 10 PM it has turned into something ominous and perhaps dangerous.
But, in spite of our fears of the dark, the season of Advent offers us the unique gift of waiting in the darkness. And while at first glance this might seem more like a punishment than a gift, it is actually an invitation into a liminal space of silence, wonder, and awe. A moment where the manifestation of God’s presence comes to our heightened senses in new ways.
Like many of you, I’m sure, I get well-acquainted with the darkness in winter. My morning runs start—and sometimes finish—in darkness; and my evening walks with Henry are entirely in the dark. And I find that I like it that way. While it is true that in the morning I am waiting for the sun to rise, I also am enjoying the stillness, the lack of traffic, the shining stars, and the faint outline of the occasional deer, or fox in the distance. Sometimes in the morning I even see a shooting star—it always feels like a rare gift when that happens. None of these things are possible without the darkness, and the Holy Spirit reveals herself in those moments.
Some of the most important moments in Jesus’ life happened in the darkness—and maybe that is true for you as well. His birth, of course; the hours of his deepest prayer; his conversation with Nicodemus; his night of decision and betrayal in the garden. And, if Matthew is to be believed, the crucifixion, too, and those momentous hours before the stone was rolled away. The Holy Spirit revealed herself in those moments.
The season of Advent—this season of waiting, this season of darkness—gifts us with a crack, with a moment to breathe in the darkness, pray in the darkness, and rest in the darkness—even as we light the candles and wait for the light. In our darkness, in our waiting, the Holy Spirit comes.