Last Christmas my kids received some little lights which are placed into the spokes of their bike tires. Each light consists of an LED contained within a plastic housing which attaches to the spoke itself. You can click the plastic housing down onto the LED in order to change the color of the light. My kids placed several in each tire so that, as the tires spun, the lights created circles of color. It made their bikes look like the bikes on Tron.
When we began to place the lights on the bike tires it wasn’t at all dark outside. The sun had set but dusk was still quite bright, so as my kids rode around with the newly placed lights on their bike tires, the effect was pretty unimpressive. Eventually, however, as darkness set in, the lights stood out more starkly, creating vivid colors as they spun. They were beautiful and the effect was quite impressive. The thing is, the lights were shining the entire time. It was only as darkness descended that they stood out starkly against their surroundings.
In the season of Advent we practice, as a church family and community, waiting in the darkness so as to see the light – the true light – the light of Christ. So much of Advent’s lectionary is focused on the end of the world, or end of the age. It’s the end of the world with wars and rumors of wars. It’s the end of the world where the moon turns to blood and the sun refuses to shine. It’s the end of the world where greed, anger, ignorance, power, prestige, and possessions are declared to be the way to ultimate and lasting happiness.
This is the season where we practice seeing the light of Christ in the darkness of our world. The apocalyptic language of Advent should describe the end of this world in our lives and the birth of Christ within us. Dietrich Bonheoffer said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” The Apostle Paul tells us we are baptized into the death of Christ. This is language that pushes us toward rebirth – the old creation passes away and a new one is born. It is the darkness of this world that serves as the apocalypse – or revelation – of the light.
May we spend time this Advent reacquainting ourselves with the light – through prayer, stillness, and love. Our media-saturated, consumer-driven culture distracts us from experiencing that light. We must, as former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, said, let God “get at us” through prayer. And then we need to let that experience with the light change us, so we can then carry that light into the lives of others.