The following is the second in a series of four Advent Blessings that I wrote for our weekly chapel services this advent season. I wanted to share these with you, as well.
Have you ever seen a city at night from a distance?
It’s easy to see the center, all the lights and the streets draw your attention right to the heart of it. Some parts are bright with midnight life and others have long slipped into slumber. No matter the hour, there are always a few people going about their lives, driving from A to B in whatever rhythms they are living. There’s almost a pulse to it, isn’t there? The headlights spaced out. The oblivious stoplights still changing in sequence from green…to yellow…to red. Some even beat a heartbeat of yellow.
There’s a serenity to it.
It’s easy to sense that deep and dreamless sleep. It’s easy to imagine the peaceful silence. From a distance, it’s easy to see the city and to feel it resting. There’s a deep appeal and it’s hardly a wonder that Jesus spoke of this kind of city as a model for his followers. “You are the light of the world, a city on a hill cannot be hidden.”
In the bright places, it’s easy to see the detail even at night. We see the streets lit by streetlights fading gently, slowly into darkness. Perhaps the same is true for ourselves and for our own souls… that still, there remain a few corners that lay just outside the light.
A shadow of doubt. Hidden scars. A secret addiction. A dim loneliness. A concealed wound. An invisible struggle. An unknown burden.
Our eyes and our attention are drawn to the bright, lively places while these corners remain just out of sight. We hold one another at a distance and cling to the serenity it brings.
It is into these dark corners that the blessed babe is born. He came into the world by candlelight, in the manger in a stable behind the inn. It is in the dark streets that the love of Christ shines most brightly. It is where meek souls will receive him still, and the dear Christ enters in willingly, gracefully and completely.
May the final verse of this beautiful hymn be your prayer.
O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel