Our home is cozy this afternoon. Outside, it’s raining and foggy, two conditions that often coincide in northwest Washington’s winter weather. A gray blanket blots out Camano Island, Port Susan, and the Stillaguamish bottomlands and has tucked itself in against the bottom of our hill. Soon our outdoor holiday lights will come on, proclaiming that in spite of the dull weather, Christmas is coming.
At church last Sunday, we lit the second Advent candle on the wreath near the pulpit. This, the second of three purple candles, represents the love God has for us in sending Jesus as a babe in the manger. Advent is the Season of Lights, so on each of the five Sundays of Advent, we light one candle, the five together representing Christ, the Light of the World. The first purple candle stands for the hope of the prophets who foretold his coming, the second, his love. The third, a pink candle, represents joy. The fourth, which is purple, stands for peace. On Christmas Eve, we light the last candle, the white one, to signify that Christ has come into the world.
When we decorate our homes and streets with multitudes of twinkling lights at Christmastime, we are saying that the Light of the World is coming; better yet, he’s here.
I love that Christmas comes in the dark of winter. How better for us to know our need of light? How better to see the Light when he comes? Some people dread Christmas because of unhappy associations from the past. Others are living in murky times right now, times that fog the future. These circumstances…loss of jobs, divorce, death… can make one’s outlook as bleak as the fog that hides the view out our window.
We’ve had Christmases like that. Among them were financial hard times and frightening periods of illness. When our children were still young, my husband had a heart attack and lost his job, both in the same Christmas season. The kids and I decorated a tiny tree and took it to his hospital room, where we tried without much success to celebrate Christmas. Years later my father had emergency surgery in mid-December and died at the hospital. Five years ago we lost my mother on December 22, the day after her 99th birthday, and two Decembers later, we lost dear niece Tami to cancer. Those were seasons of darkness, yet because Jesus had come, they couldn’t blot out the Light. We still had hope, love, peace, and even a deep joy.
After lighting the Advent candle at church, we sang a song called, “One Day!” I’d not particularly noticed the third verse before. Here’s what it says:
One day they left him alone in the garden,
One day he rested, from suffering free;
Angels came down o’er His tomb to keep vigil,
Hope of the hopeless, my Savior is He!*
*Rev. J. Wilbur Chapman, D.D. and Chas. H. Marsh, 1910
Jesus suffered, not because of anything he had done, but to redeem us from the suffering caused by man’s sinful condition. He rested in the blackness of the garden tomb, then rose again to light our worlds.
When seasons of suffering come to us, we can rest in the darkness as Jesus did, knowing our heavenly Father sees what we’re going through. He will use our suffering for his good purpose.