“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:5)
On All Saints’ Day, a few of us were able to gather in person in the courtyard at St. Mary’s and celebrate the Eucharist together for the first time since March 8. It struck me, during that celebration, just how much that small remnant was standing in for our entire congregation. It felt like an act of defiance against this pandemic which has weighed us down mightily these months.
This defiance is visible in our church, in the form of a single candle that lights the darkness. The reserved sacrament, the bread that was consecrated in that celebration but not consumed, rests in the tabernacle under the Annunciation window. The body of Christ, the bread of heaven. And because it is there, the sanctuary lamp, which hangs on the wall next to the altar, is burning. As long as that lamp burns, our church is never completely dark. Nor is not empty.
That lamp, the light shining in the darkened church building, is emblematic of the hope we reaffirm in this season of Advent. God created the world. God became incarnate in this world and lived among us. God’s Spirit remains with us. And in the fullness of time, God’s reign will be established on earth, as it is in heaven.
We who observe the season of Advent each year know the pain and the power of waiting. We know that it can be uncomfortable. We know that the long nights of winter can seem oppressive but that the light of a candle can make it more bearable. We know that as we wait, and hope, something is growing in us.
The candles of the Advent wreath seem especially important to me this year. We began on Sunday by lighting a single candle. Each week we will add one more, defying the deepening nights by shining ever more light, until on Christmas we celebrate the light of the world entering the world as a newborn baby. I encourage you to use an Advent wreath at home this year. Light it every night. Watch as the growing light chases the shadows away. The light shines in the darkness. The darkness did not, and will not, overcome it.