Light and Darkness

First Sunday of Advent

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of
darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of
this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit
us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come
again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the
dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives
and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and
for ever. Amen.the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Sunday, Nov. 27:
AM Psalm 146, 147; PM Psalm 111, 112, 113; Amos 1:1-5,13—2:8;
1 Thess. 5:1-11; Luke 21:5-19

– Zac Koons

I wonder how you picture the first day of creation. What did it look like when
God spoke the words “Let there be light” into the dark, formless void? I
wonder if it was instantaneous. I wonder if it was like a sunrise. Do you think it
was sheer, unadulterated brightness? Or was it colorful? Was it the fiery gold of
the noonday sun? Was it cast in light blue, reflecting the waters of the deep? I
wonder what it looked like for light to first come into the world.

I wonder how you picture the Nativity scene. What did it sound like when Jesus
was born? Could you hear his cry over the whinny of the horse? How many
people were there crowded around that make-shift crib? What do you think it
smelled like? I wonder how the light fell on that scene. Maybe there were oil
lamps strewn about the stable. Perhaps Joseph held up a solitary candle.

I invite you to wonder with a painter named Rembrandt Harmenszoon van
Rijn. His painting of the Nativity depicts a farmhouse crowded with shepherds
and animals—all of whom are trying to get a peak at the new baby boy. The
manger is partially obscured to our eye, blocked by the shoulders of anxious
onlookers. And this actually puts us directly in the scene with the shepherds,
maneuvering around for the best vantage point.

The strange part of the painting is the light. Off to one side a shepherd is holding
one dimly lit lamp, but there is another light, a warm, golden, unnaturally bright light emanating from the manger itself. And you notice that it is by that light that we can see anything in the scene in the first place. We can only see the faces of Mary, Joseph and the Shepherds to the degree that their faces can see Jesus.

I wonder if the light radiating from the manger is the same kind of light that
pierced through the darkness on the first day of creation. I wonder if Rembrandt
was thinking of the words of Saint John, who said, “The true light that gives
light to everyone was coming into the world” (Jn. 1:9). I wonder if you see yourself somewhere in this painting. I wonder if it hurts to be exposed to the true light?

I wonder if our faces will shine like Moses’ did before the Lord? I wonder
what it will be like when night shall be no more, and we need no light of lamp
or sun, because the Lord God will be the only light we need (Rev. 22:5).

(Today’s exercise: Take as much as time as you can afford, now or later in the
day, to look at Rembrandt’s painting. Allow this painting to stir you to prayer.
Invite the Holy Spirit to give you insight through the painting into your own
life.)

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