Thursday, Dec. 1:
AM Psalm 18:1-20; PM Psalm 18:21-50;
Amos 4:6-13; 2 Pet. 3:11-18; Matt. 21:33-46
I spent this past summer up in the high country of Western North Carolina. I
stayed in the home of a wonderfully hospitable family. It had this huge pine
wrap-around deck and looking off the northernmost end of it I had a view of
my very own mountain. It was visible in the day, at least. At night the darkness
grew deep, and the mountain was often lost in the thickness of it. Above,
though, the stars were brighter than I had ever seen them in Nashville, my
hometown, or Durham, my home now. Going to the country to do ministry, I
feared the presumed confines of a small sameness, but found instead—like the
stars and the dark—a startling and open world of contrasts. This is often how
God surprises me.
Recently Brother Kevin Hackett, a monastic of the Society of Saint John the
Evangelist, challenged me to look back over my life for the starry constellations
God has shown me, to look for moments of brightness and clarity and to ask
God to show me the larger shape they make. In doing this, I was dismayed at
how difficult it was to count the lights. It was on one of my darker days when he
had asked me, within a darker month, and I felt perhaps a little enveloped by
shadow; it was hard to remember, not the theory of, but certainly the look and
feel of light.
In prayer, in the presence of Christ, I looked with the Spirit into my dark spaces and found that I could see. It was something like this.
This summer a friend and I visited Linville Caverns up in the hill country, and
at one point in the tour the guide turned all the lights off. We couldn’t see
anything in the chill black. It was the kind of darkness one couldn’t imagine
ever getting used to. And yet I still knew my friend’s presence, could sense my
friend moving in the dark. And more than that, I knew that, had we waited and
watched, the darkness would not necessarily change, but our eyes would learn to
take in more light—and so the light would come through.
And, I realized, it is through the dark spaces—not around or above, neither
below nor circumventing, but going headlong into and out the other side—that
the Christ-child took on flesh, my flesh, to take me by the hand in that darkness
and lead me towards the light of the Father. And it is this self-same Christ who
drew the constellations on the night sky, who guides my hands in drawing the
light and dark filled lines of my life. This same Jesus is my friend, so close, in the dark.
Original Photo by Emily Ransom
(Today’s exercise: Take a moment to thank God for the close friends he has
placed in your life. Thank God for them by name and say a prayer for their
needs. Consider a way in this season of Advent that you might bless them.)