In my church this Sunday, we will begin the Advent season by hearing biblical texts crafted by writers who longed for God’s presence. The Gospel text for the first Sunday in Advent this year, Luke 21:25-36, speaks of “distress among the nations.” Jeremiah imagines justice, righteousness, and safety in hurting lands (33:14-16). These texts speak to us across the years with great urgency. Almost daily in my newsfeed, I read of distress among nations and peoples, and along with Jeremiah I imagine—hope for—justice and safety for people whose fearful eyes search the skies not for stars but for bombs. So the season of Advent begins–with too many people across the globe seeking refuge from the symbolic and literal “roaring of sea and waves” (Lk. 21:25). Advent begins.
Bright flames dance in the distance
somewhere on down the path.
We are eager for the light,
for toes warmed up
by a friendly fire
too many wintry miles.
But for now, one candle only,
an illuminating snippet
to see us through
until the spark catches and the fire grows.
God of First Light,
Stir in us a yearning
to hear with gentle ears
the stories of others
who stumble with us
upon this just-lit Advent fire.
Send to us for these dim days
flashes of insight.
Light a new torch
to animate humanity’s treacherous search
for this thing we call truth.
Keep us from harboring
evidence of things not seen
in the limited glow of a single flame.
Arouse longing for wisdom and beauty
that await recognition
beyond the boundaries of what we can see
in the partial light of our mind’s eye.
If anything about this old world is to end in fire,
let it be our hatred and fear
that are burned away in the weeks ahead
as Advent’s blaze sparks and intensifies,
provokes and inflames
peace on earth,
goodwill to all people.